Grades/Level: High School (9–12)
Subjects: Visual Arts
Time Required: Single Class Lesson

Author: This lesson was adapted by J. Paul Getty Museum Education staff from a curriculum originally published on the Getty's first education website, ArtsEdNet.


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Lesson Overview

This lesson is part of a sequential unit. Students display the two still-life paintings that they created in previous lessons, along with their artist's statements. They write a review of a peer's work and discuss all of the paintings in a group critique.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• compare and contrast two-dimensional compositions.
• use vocabulary about illusion of three-dimensional space and form in a work of art, and about transparent and opaque mediums.
• apply criteria to an evaluation of a peer's artwork.


• Journals for note taking and sketching
• Completed student artworks and artist's statements
• Camera, to document student work for their portfolios

Lesson Steps

1. Display students' completed still-life paintings and artist's statements in the classroom.

2. In the classroom, post the criteria for a still-life painting that the students developed in Lesson 1. Have each student choose the two paintings created by one classmate and write an evaluation of the artworks in their journals. They should address the following:
• Give an example of good use of color. Explain why it is good in your opinion.
• Give an example of good use of line. Explain why it is good in your opinion.
• Give an example of good use of shading. Explain why it is good in your opinion.
• Compare the work to one of the still-life paintings from the Getty Museum.
• Did the artist achieve a sense of three-dimensional space in the paintings?
• How do the two mediums change your appreciation for the subject?
• Summarize the artist's statement in one sentence.
• How does the artist's statement change your appreciation for these works of art?

3. After students have finished their written critiques, have volunteers share their evaluations with the class. Use the students' observations to start a class critique of the paintings. Point out common themes and issues that appear in the works.

4. Photograph the students' works of art and have them add the photographs to their portfolios, along with their journal sketches and artist's statements.

Still Life: Apples / Cézanne
Still Life with Apples, Paul Cézanne, 1893–1894


Students should be able to do the following:
• Identify still-life painting and relate it to historic objects.
• Describe and analyze a peer's artwork in written form.
• Make clear statements about the significance, value, and meaning of their peers' works of art.
• Apply previously determined criteria to their analysis of their peers' artwork.

Standards Addressed

Common Core Standards for English Language Arts

Grades 9–12

Text Types and Purposes
3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing
4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Comprehension and Collaboration
1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grades 9–12 Proficient

1.0 Artistic Perception
Develop Perceptual Skills and Visual Arts Vocabulary
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.
Analyze Art Elements and Principles of Design
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.
Impact of Media Choice
1.5 Analyze the material used by a given artist and describe how its use influences the meaning of the work.

2.0 Creative Expression
Skills, Processes, Materials, and Tools
2.2 Prepare a portfolio of original two- and three-dimensional works of art that reflects refined craftsmanship and technical skills.

4.0 Aesthetic Valuing
Make Informed Judgments
4.3 Formulate and support a position regarding the aesthetic value of a specific work of art and change or defend that position after considering the views of others.
4.5 Employ the conventions of art criticism in writing and speaking about works of art.

National Standards for Visual Arts Education

Grades 9–12

2. Using knowledge of structures and functions
a. Demonstrate the ability to form and defend judgments about the characteristics and structures to accomplish commercial, personal, communal, or other purposes of art.
b. Evaluate the effectiveness of artworks in terms of organizational structures and functions.

5. Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others
a. Identify intentions of those creating artworks, explore the implications of various purposes, and justify their analyses of purposes in particular works.
b. Describe meanings of artworks by analyzing how specific works are created and how they relate to historical and cultural contexts.
c. Reflect analytically on various interpretations as a means for understanding and evaluating works of visual art.