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Exploring Identity through Modern Art

Grades 6 through 12

We are no longer accepting requests for winter/spring field trips.

We will offer a selection of in-person and virtual field trips (using Zoom) for Fall 2024.

Request for fall field trips (September 30 – December 6, 2024) will be accepted from August 1 – November 1, 2024.

How do artists draw on memories and experiences to create art that reflects their identities? How does an artist’s connection to place spark inspiration? Through guided looking, sketching, and writing activities, students will consider how artists explore identity through their art.

We look slightly down onto a crush of pedestrians, horse-drawn carriages, wagons, and streetcars enclosed by a row of densely spaced buildings and skyscrapers opposite us in this horizontal painting. The street in front of us is alive with action but the overall color palette is subdued with burgundy red, grays, and black, punctuated by bright spots of harvest yellow, shamrock green, apple red, and white. Most of the people wear long dark coats and black hats but a few in particular draw the eye. For instance, in a patch of sunlight in the lower right corner, three women wearing light blue, scarlet-red, or emerald-green dresses stand out from the crowd. The sunlight also highlights a white spot on the ground, probably snow, amid the crowd to our right. Beyond the band of people in the street close to us, more people fill in the space around carriages, wagons, and trolleys, and a large horse-drawn cart piled with large yellow blocks, perhaps hay, at the center of the composition. A little in the distance to our left, a few bare trees stand around a patch of white ground. Beyond that, in the top half of the painting, city buildings are blocked in with rectangles of muted red, gray, and tan. Shorter buildings, about six to ten stories high, cluster in front of the taller buildings that reach off the top edge of the painting. The band of skyscrapers is broken only by a gray patch of sky visible in a gap between the buildings to our right of center, along the top of the canvas. White smoke rises from a few chimneys and billboards and advertisements are painted onto the fronts of some of the buildings. The paint is loosely applied, so many of the people and objects are created with only a few swipes of the brush, which makes many of the details indistinct. The artist signed the work with pine-green paint near the lower left corner: “Geo Bellows.”

George Bellows, New York, 1911, oil on canvas, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1986.72.1

Looking and Learning Skills

During four or five field trip stops, students engage in activities that foster conversations around works of art, such as careful looking and creative writing exercises. These activities promote the following skills:

  • Making careful observations using evidence from the works of art.
  • Formulating questions and connections that demonstrate curiosity and engagement.
  • Exploring multiple viewpoints within the student group.
  • Using one’s own perspective to contribute to the discussion.
  • Developing and articulating new ideas about modern art and identity.

In-Person Field Trip Information

Group Size: Up to 90 students
Length: 75 minutes
Meeting Location: East Building Atrium

Virtual Field Trip Information

Length: 75 minutes

Important Scheduling Information

Field trips must be scheduled at least four weeks in advance. Groups must contain at least 15 students.

Once your field trip has been scheduled, you will receive an email confirmation within ten business days.

Title I Bus Stipends

Funding for the cost of bus transportation is available for Title I schools that participate in our docent-led school field trips. For more information, please get in touch with Deirdre Palmer at [email protected] or (202) 842-6880, or use the application form.

Examples of Works Featured on this Field Trip

Additional National Gallery Resources

Related Resources