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Sculpture and Sketching: From Traditional to Modern

Grades 4 through 12

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

Requests for winter/spring field trips (January 8 – May 31, 2024) will be accepted from December 1, 2023 – April 5, 2024.

From figurative bronzes and marble carvings to works of art that challenge conventional ideas about sculpture, students will investigate materials, techniques, subject matter, and artistic intent. Through sketching exercises and discussion, students will develop their ideas and interpretations of traditional sculptures in the West Building and modern sculptures in the East Building.

Carved from white marble, a young woman sits turned to face the back of a wooden chair, where she props the open book she reads in this free-standing sculpture. In this photograph, her knees face us but her body and head are turned slightly to our left, toward the ladderback of the chair, so we see her face almost in profile as she looks down at the book. Her long hair is loosely tied back at the nape of her neck. She has a straight nose and her lips are closed. A delicate tear falls from her left eye, closer to us. A loose, short-sleeved garment falls open over her right shoulder so her breast is exposed. A medallion with a portrait of a man hangs from a long string around her neck. She holds the book open with her right hand, farther away from us, and her other hand rests in her lap. The book lies on more fabric bunching over the back of the chair. Her bare feet, crossed at the ankle, peek out from under her long garment so one foot extends beyond the edge of the marble base on which the chair rests.

Pietro Magni, The Reading Girl (La Leggitrice), model 1856, carved 1861, marble, Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2003.84.1

Looking and Learning Skills

This field trip encourages participants to develop their ideas and interpretations based on careful observation, sketching, and discussion of sculpture at five to six stops. Students will practice:

  • Using sketching as a tool to observe and understand sculptural technique, form, and function
  • Debating, discussing, and interpreting the intended purpose and message of a sculpture or group of sculptures, and
  • Comparing and contrasting the materials, technique, and subject matter of sculptures

In-Person Field Trip Information

Group Size: Up to 60 students
Length: 90 minutes
Meeting Location: West Building Rotunda

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