Grades/Level: Adult Learners
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts, ESL
Time Required: Single Class Lesson
One class period
Author: Getty Museum Education Staff

For the Classroom

Curriculum Home
Lesson Plans
Tips for Teaching about Portraits
Tips for Teaching about Landscapes
Tips for Teaching about Narrative Art

Lesson Overview

Students will make connections between their personal experiences and a work of art and use visual analysis to describe a portrait.

Learning Objectives

• Students can define a portrait and identify different kinds of portraits in artworks and their own lives.
• Students look closely at a portrait using visual analysis to verbally describe details.
• Students use new vocabulary.


• One of the two portraits below
• Looking at Portraits Vocabulary

Lesson Steps

Begin with the following opening questions:
• Have any of you ever had your portrait made? (Remind students of ID cards, passports, photographs, etc.)
• What are some of the things you thought about before your portrait was made? (Consider clothing, facial expression, background, etc.)
• What did it feel like to have your portrait made?
• Do you like to show off that portrait, or do you keep it hidden?

Next, review the Looking at Portraits Vocabulary. Display one of the images you will use to inspire discussion so the entire class can view it.

• What is the first thing you notice about this person?
• What does the facial expression tell us about him or her? His or her posture? His or her gestures?
• How about his or her attire? The setting? The props he or she is holding?
• Do you think he or she works? What does he or she do?
• Would you like to meet this person? Why or why not?
• What do you think the sitter wanted his or her portrait to communicate?
• What do you see that makes you say that?

• Have students pose like the sitter and describe how it makes them feel.
• Bring in props, such as a hat, cane, or fan, and have students discuss how using the props makes them feel ("realia" activity).
• Have students write down what they think the sitter was thinking about while his/her portrait was being made.

Princess Leonilla / Winterhalter
Portrait of Leonilla, Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1843