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Education Home Search Lesson Plans All Curricula Neoclassicism and the Enlightenment: A Curriculum for Middle and High School Teachers Lesson Plans "A Dream of Classic Perfection"
"A Dream of Classic Perfection"

Grades/Level: Middle School (6–8), High School (9–12)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts, History–Social Science
Time Required: 3–5–Part Lesson
5 class periods
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff

Curriculum Home
Lesson Plans
Image Bank
Neoclassicism and the Enlightenment Overview
Timeline: Neoclassicism and the Enlightenment
California and National Standards Charts

Lesson Overview

Students will examine primary sources in order to draw conclusions about the influence of Greek classical art and philosophy on the French Revolution. Students will compare the goals of the French Revolution to those of Neoclassical artists. Students will understand how visual language and style reflect underlying values in society by writing an analysis of the narrative in a work of art.

Learning Objectives

• Students should be able to write a composition in which they clearly state their thesis based upon a quotation and defend it using facts gathered in class.
• Students should be able to analyze the work of a Neoclassical artist and write about how the style contributes to our understanding of the work.


• Images of The Invention of Drawing and The Farewell of Telemachus and Eucharis
• Information about artworks, found in the Image Bank
• Overhead projector
• Copies of Image Bank pages for students
• Worksheet: "Philosophy and Art During the French Revolution"
• Dictionaries

Lesson Steps

1. Using background information in Neoclassicism and the Enlightenment Overview, introduce the Neoclassical style, emphasizing its role as a reaction to excesses and moral decay of the ancien régime (the political and social system in France before the Revolution of 1789) and the Rococo. You may show the class Rococo images such as Corner Cupboard by Jacques Dubois and The Bird Catchers by François Boucher. Also share Neoclassicism's connection to the French Revolution, the Enlightenment, duty to a higher cause, and classical philosophy.

2. Show students images of The Invention of Drawing and The Farewell of Telemachus and Eucharis.

3. Divide students into groups of three to four and distribute the "Philosophy and Art During the French Revolution" worksheet with quotations describing the French Revolution. Assign half of the groups the painting and the other half the drawing. Each group should analyze its image using the handout as a guideline and present its findings to the class. You may give students a copy of the Questions for Teaching found in the Image Bank for each object, without the answers, to help them with their group analysis. Students may create a graphic organizer such as a Venn diagram to assist with this task. As a class, discuss the similarities and the differences in these two works.

4. Give those students who analyzed the painting the synopsis of the story of Telemachus, and those who analyzed the drawing the story of Dibutade (legendary Corinthian maiden, known as the inventor of drawing). Synopses can be found in the Image Bank. Have the students write essays of at least 750 words (about 3–5 paragraphs) identifying the themes of their story and connecting those themes to the ideas and values of the Enlightenment as discussed in Step 1. What is the moral of each story? How does it connect to the ideals of the Enlightenment? How does the artist communicate these ideals in his work? What visual clues does he use to do this? Does this artwork relate to the French Revolution? Why or why not? Students may use the terms defined in the student handout in their writings.

5. Divide the class into two groups to chart their findings from their writing assignment. As a class, use these charts to discuss and compare the themes conveyed in both works of art, looking for underlying similarities.

6. After exploring these works of art further, reintroduce the quotation by Isaiah Berlin from the worksheet. Discuss with the class their reaction to Hugh Honour's contention and ask if their opinions have changed.

Telem. & Eucharis / David
The Farewell of Telemachus and Eucharis, Jacques-Louis David, 1818


Observation of student discussion and small groups for inclusion of the following:
• Identification and description of Neoclassical style.
• How time, place, and cultural influence are reflected in selected works of art.
• Neoclassical art in the context of its relationship to Enlightenment thought and the French Revolution.
• Articulation of the theme of a work of art and demonstration of their understanding of the important ideas behind the Neoclassical style.
• Use of appropriate vocabulary, including the terms they defined on the worksheet.

Evaluation of small groups, including:
• Understanding of quotations by Berlin and Honour, including vocabulary.
• Ability to paraphrase Berlin quotation.
• Ability to articulate reasons for agreement or disagreement with Honour's premise.

Students should be able to articulate, in discussion and written assignment:
• Neoclassical characteristics (moralizing theme, application of ancient art form to contemporary life).
• Relationship of Neoclassical style to ideals of the French Revolution.
• Relationship of works of art to Enlightenment philosophy (industry and creativity in the individual, moral fortitude, duty to family and country).

Standards Addressed

History—Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools
Grade 7

7.11.4 Explain how the main ideas of the Enlightenment can be traced back to such movements as the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Scientific Revolution and to the Greeks, Romans, and Christianity.
7.11.5 Describe how democratic thought and institutions were influenced by Enlightenment thinkers (e.g., John Locke, Charles-Louis Montesquieu, American founders).

Grade 10
10.2 Students compare and contrast the Glorious Revolution of England, the American Revolution, and the French Revolution and their enduring effects worldwide on the political expectations for self-government and individual liberty.
10.2.1 Compare the major ideas of philosophers and their effects on the democratic revolutions in England, the United States, France, and Latin America (e.g., John Locke, Charles-Louis Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Simón Bolívar, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison).

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools
Grade 7
Artistic Perception
1.1 Describe the environment and selected works of art, using the elements of art and the principles of design.
1.2 Identify and describe scale (proportion) as applied to two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of art.
1.3 Identify and describe the ways in which artists convey the illusion of space (e.g., placement, overlapping, relative size, atmospheric perspective, and linear perspective).

Historical and Cultural Context
3.1 Research and describe how art reflects cultural values in various traditions throughout the world.
3.2 Compare and contrast works of art from various periods, styles, and cultures and explain how those works reflect the society in which they were made.

Aesthetic Valuing
4.2 Analyze the form (how a work of art looks) and content (what a work of art communicates) of works of art.
4.3 Take an active part in a small-group discussion about the artistic value of specific works of art, with a wide range of the viewpoints of peers being considered.
4.4 Develop and apply specific and appropriate criteria individually or in groups to assess and critique works of art.

Grade 10
Artistic Perception
1.1 Identify and use the principles of design to discuss, analyze, and write about visual aspects in the environment and in works of art, including their own.
1.2 Describe the principles of design as used in works of art, focusing on dominance and subordination.
1.3 Research and analyze the work of an artist and write about the artist's distinctive style and its contribution to the meaning of the work.
1.4 Analyze and describe how the composition of a work of art is affected by the use of a particular principle of design.

Historical and Cultural Context
3.1 Identify similarities and differences in the purposes of art created in selected cultures.
3.3 Identify and describe trends in the visual arts and discuss how the issues of time, place, and cultural influence are reflected in selected works of art.

Aesthetic Valuing
4.1 Articulate how personal beliefs, cultural traditions, and current social, economic, and political contexts influence the interpretation of the meaning or message in a work of art.
4.2 Compare the ways in which the meaning of a specific work of art has been affected over time because of changes in interpretation and context.

English Language Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools
Grade 10
Writing Strategies
1.0 Students write coherent and focused essays that convey a well-defined perspective and tightly reasoned argument. The writing demonstrates students' awareness of the audience and purpose. Students progress through the stages of the writing process as needed.
1.1 Establish a controlling impression or coherent thesis that conveys a clear and distinctive perspective on the subject and maintain a consistent tone and focus throughout the piece of writing.
1.2 Use precise language, action verbs, sensory details, appropriate modifiers, and the active rather than the passive voice.
1.4 Develop the main ideas within the body of the composition through supporting evidence (e.g., scenarios, commonly held beliefs, hypotheses, definitions).
1.6 Integrate quotations and citations into a written text while maintaining the flow of ideas.

Writing Applications
2.4 Write persuasive compositions: a. Structure ideas and arguments in a sustained and logical fashion.
b. Use specific rhetorical devices to support assertions (e.g., appeal to logic through reasoning; appeal to emotion or ethical belief; relate a personal anecdote, case study, or analogy).
c. Clarify and defend positions with precise and relevant evidence, including facts, expert opinions, quotations, and expressions of commonly accepted beliefs and logical reasoning.
d. Address readers' concerns, counterclaims, biases, and expectations.

National Standards for Social Sciences
World History
Grades 5–12
Era 7: An Age of Revolutions, 1750–1914
Students should understand the causes and consequences of political revolutions in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

National Standards for Visual Arts
Grades 5–8
Using Knowledge of Structures and Functions
Students employ organizational structures and analyze what makes them effective or not effective in the communication of ideas.

Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
Students analyze, describe, and demonstrate how factors of time and place (such as climate, resources, ideas, and technology) influence visual characteristics that give meaning and value to a work of art.

Reflecting Upon and Assessing the Characteristics and Merits of Their Work and the Work of Others
Students compare multiple purposes for creating works of art.
Students analyze contemporary and historic meanings in specific artworks through cultural and aesthetic inquiry.

Making Connections between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
Students compare the characteristics of works in two or more art forms that share similar subject matter, historical periods, or cultural context.
Students describe ways in which the principles and subject matter of other disciplines taught in the school are interrelated with the visual arts.

Grades 9–12
Using Knowledge of Structures and Functions
Students demonstrate the ability to form and defend judgments about the characteristics and structures to accomplish commercial, personal, communal, or other purposes of art.
Students evaluate the effectiveness of artworks in terms of organizational structures and functions.

Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
Students reflect on how artworks differ visually, spatially, temporally, and functionally, and describe how these are related to history and culture.
Students apply subjects, symbols, and ideas in their artworks and use the skills gained to solve problems in daily life.

Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
Students differentiate among a variety of historical and cultural contexts in terms of characteristics and purposes of works of art.
Students describe the function and explore the meaning of specific art objects within varied cultures, times, and places.
Students analyze relationships of works of art to one another in terms of history, aesthetics, and culture, justifying conclusions made in the analysis and using such conclusions to inform their own art making.

Reflecting Upon and Assessing the Characteristics and Merits of Their Work and the Work of Others
Students identify intentions of those creating artworks, explore the implications of various purposes, and justify their analyses of purposes in particular works.
Students describe meanings of artworks by analyzing how specific works are created and how they relate to historical and cultural contexts. Students reflect analytically on various interpretations as a means for understanding and evaluating works of visual art.

Making Connections between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
Students compare characteristics of visual arts within a particular historical period or style with ideas, issues, or themes in the humanities or sciences.

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