Fourth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 9 - Printing


Recall the use of printers' marks, initials, and monograms from Lesson 7.

Observe the link between silversmiths and printing in American History.

Observe the difference between capital letters that look the same when reversed and those that do not.

Create initials or monogram for printing.


Heavy cardboard for teacher demonstration

Large capitals to be copied, see below

Styrofoam trays from supermarket, 1 for each student

Scissors for trimming edges of styrofoam trays

Large nails for cutting into the styrofoam, 1 for each student

Rollers or paint brushes for "inking" or painting

Thick tempera paint for printing

Colored chalk, 1 for each student

Newsprint paper for each student, cut to approximate size of styrofoam trays

Damp sponges for removing ink or paint from surface of the tray

Several small mirrors

Suggested Books

Student Titles

Fisher, Leonard Everett. The Silversmiths. New York: Benchmark Books, 1997.

Illustrated with black and white wood engravings by the author, who first gives the

history of silversmithing in colonial America, then describes the technique. A section

at the end is devoted to the names and marks of some colonial American silversmiths. Serves as review and provides examples of initials and monograms from Lesson 7.

Judy, Susan and Stephen. Gifts of Writing: Creative Projects with Words and Art. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980.

The first two chapters have good ideas for printing and simple methods for varying alphabets and styles of penmanship.

Rockwell, Harlow. Printmaking. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1973.

Beautifully laid out and illustrated. Step-by-step instructions are clear, and examples of

the different methods of printmaking are by young students.

Robins, Deri. Step-By-Step Making Prints. New York: Kingfisher Books, 1993.

Very clear, fully illustrated directions for making all kinds of prints and rubbings, several without the use of knives or other cutting tools difficult to manage in the classroom.

Teacher Demonstration

Since the students have been introduced to the idea of printing and engraving in their study of the arts in colonial and early United States history, this lesson will show them the basic problems of reversing images that printmakers need to solve in doing their work. It will also prepare them for the study of art (especially illumination and related book arts) in the Medieval period, which they will begin in January.

You will need to prepare for the lesson by cutting out the six printed capital letters whose patterns are provided below. Three of the letters are completely reversible; three are not. The

fronts of all of the letters should be colored a bright color. Start by holding up the capital A against a contrasting background, so that its outline is very clear. Ask the students: What will happen if I turn this letter over, front to back; will it still be the same letter and read exactly the same? (yes) Show them that this is true.

Ask the students: What other term besides reversible could we use to describe this letter? What about perfectly symmetrical? Do you recall in Second Grade (Visual Arts Lessons 26 through 29) we talked about symmetry in Greek art and architecture? Who can think of a way to check to see whether a letter is perfectly symmetrical? (Fold it down the center; the left side and right sides will match perfectly.) Fold the capital A down the center so they can see that it is perfectly symmetrical.

Repeat both processes with the capitals T and M; then, choose the non-reversible letter B, and go through the processes with the students. Repeat the processes with E and G until you feel the students are sure about the difference. (You may want to go through the capital alphabet with them on the board, writing each letter forwards and backwards and drawing a dotted line down the center of the letters that are perfectly symmetrical so they can see what happens with each letter.)

Next, remind the students of the silversmith's marks they made in clay in Lesson 7. Show the marks if they are still in the classroom. Otherwise, write on the board three initials in capitals with periods between (as in A. B. C.) Tell the class that today they are going to make their initials the way printers and engravers do. Say to them: When you write your initials, you have to figure out whether the letters of your initials are the same front and back. For those initials that are not the same front and back, you will have to reverse them before you print them. Ask them: What else do you think you will have to reverse when you print your initials? (The periods will have to precede the letters.)


As you circulate among the students, instruct them to write their initials with pencils on a piece of scrap paper in reverse, the way they will do it for printing. Tell them this is exactly the way that an artist who makes a wood or metal engraving has to reverse the letters and the designs for a print. As students show you the completed initials, give them each a styrofoam tray, scissors, and nail. Let them use small hand mirrors to check their work, to make sure of what the initials will look like when they are printed.

*If there are students who still have trouble with reversing their intials, help them accomplish their goal by using the suggested process found at the end of the lesson.

Have the students trim the edges of their syrofoam trays if there is a "lip" that would make inking more difficult. Tell them it is important to have the surface as flat as possible. Next,

they will inscribe their initials in reverse, exactly the same way they did with their pencils, but this time with the large nail. Using small brushes, or brayers if they are available, have the

students ink their initials carefully, making sure they understand that the ink or paint should get heavily into the incised lines most of all. Let them use the damp sponges to wipe paint from the flat surface of the styrofoam tray.

Have them cut the reversed half and lay it on top of the styrofoam, face up. Using the nail, have them press the nail through the paper with small puncturing dots, one after another, following the shape of each letter. After they have lifted the paper off the styrofoam, they can then connect the dots they have made into the letter shapes with the nail.

Fourth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 9 - Printing

Give everyone a piece of blank newsprint. Have them place the newsprint carefully over the styrofoam, then turn it upside down, and apply pressure from one end of the styrofoam to the other with the heels of their hands. When they turn the styrofoam and paper over and then carefully peel the paper off the styrofoam, they will see their initials printed in color. Fuzzy outlines and a few smudges are a part of printmaking and are to be expected.

If there is time and interest, you may want to talk with them about how, before automated typesetting, printers had to cast their letters out of lead and then place them by hand--reversing those letters that were not the same front and back, then reversing the letters in the words so a line of type would print correctly. Tell them they might try at home to write secret messages in reverse; then no one will be able to read what they have written without a mirror.

For students who are struggling with the process of reversing their initials and their order, have them fold a long narrow piece of paper in half, then write their initials in colored chalk on the left side. When they close the paper along the fold and press down hard, they will find upon opening the paper again, the reversal of their initials.

Fourth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 10 - Apprenticeship


Hear information about terms of apprenticeship in colonial America.

Recall Paul Revere as apprentice.

Discuss opportunities for apprenticeship or learning a trade for students today.

Complete a group activity focused on apprenticeship.


Books illustrating various skills or trades from classroom or school library (optional)

Paper and pencils

Suggested Books

Student Reference

Brenner, Barbara. If You Were There in 1776. New York: Bradbury Press, 1994.

Brenner gives a wonderfully clear picture of colonial America as it affected a youngster's life. Her chapter called "Enslaved People" is an excellent presentation of slavery in this country at the time of the Revolution. She also addresses briefly the issue of young apprentices and indentured servants.

Welton, Jude. Tate Gallery Drawing: A Young Artist's Guide. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1994.

Part of the "Young Artists Series," this wonderful book is filled with all the nuts and

bolts necessary to practice and perfect the skills of drawing. Abounds with examples from famous artists as well as from school children who are beginning amateur artists.

Teacher Reference

Hakim, Joy. A History of US: From Colonies to Country, Book 3. New York: Oxford University Press, Ch. 1, "Freedom of the Press, pp. 13-16.

Useful for understanding relationship between indenture and apprenticeship in United States colonial history.

Stevens, Bernardine S. Colonial American Craftspeople. New York: Franklin Watts, 1993.

Illustrations are historical, archival black and white reproductions of engravings & drawings of the period (a bit like the ones in the Joy Hakim History of US books--very good for understanding the period). See in particular Ch. 1, "Apprentices: Craftspeople in Training," pp. 11-19. Includes useful Glossary and Bibliography. Gives the best sense so far of all the handiwork/useful arts operating in colonial America.


Remind the students that many different kinds of people came to the colonies that became the United States, from many countries and for many different reasons. They have already learned about the conditions under which so many Africans came, against their will, bought and sold in order to provide free labor for large plantations in the South primarily, but as workers in the North as well. They had no freedom. In exceptional cases during the early colonial period, they might have learned to read and write. If their masters were kind, they received decent food and a home; girls cooked and cleaned and did field work if they were strong; boys did hard labor, primarily in the fields. The vast majority had no hope of eventually obtaining their freedom, and the skills they learned--at least on plantations--were very limited.

Tell the students that there were two kinds of immigrants to the colonies who worked without pay, but not for life. They wanted to come to the colonies, but did not have money for the passage. The first kind was called indentured service: someone who needed servants would pay their passage in return for a certain number of years of labor; the second was called apprenticeship. Joy Hakim, who wrote A History of Us, says that about a half of those who came here to be settlers became either indentured servants or apprentices. Some indentured servants were orphans and poor children with no education at all. Many were adults, who were not eligible for apprenticeship because of their age. Their contracts, or papers of indenture, laid down very strict rules about how they were to live. During their time of indenture, which was commonly 7 years, they lived with someone who provided food, a place to live, and some education, in return for very hard work for no pay. At the end of their indentured service they were free to find work with pay, although they were not necessarily skilled in a trade.

Apprentices had a much better deal. Their contracts were usually for 7 years as well, but, in addition to being fed and clothed in the houses of their masters, they learned to be skilled craftsmen at a useful trade. For boys, this might be as a metal worker, a carpenter, a papermaker or printer--all the jobs necessary to life in the colonies. Most apprentices worked very hard, from sunup to sundown, in addition to having lessons for reading and writing. But when they had completed their 7-year apprenticeship, they had some education, were skilled workers, and could therefore expect to be well paid for their work. Often boys apprenticed to a relative. Paul Revere was apprenticed to his father, who was a master silversmith. By the time Paul had finished his apprenticeship at 21, his father had died. Paul was then the master silversmith, and his younger brother became apprenticed to Paul, signing the same agreement with the same terms that any apprentice would.

In colonial America, there were no apprenticeships for painters, just for craftsmen. In Europe, where the apprentice system had started hundreds of years before in the Middle Ages, there were master painters and sculptors. (Remind the students that Rembrandt, whose painting The Man With the Golden Helmet they studied in Third Grade, was a master painter who offered apprenticeships in his studio.) That is why painters from the colonies such as Benjamin West and Gilbert Stuart went to Europe to learn from master painters there.

Choose several different kinds of colonial craftspeople (such as silversmith, cobbler, tailor, etc.) and brainstorm with the students about the kinds of skills they would need to acquire during an apprenticeship in order to learn that particular trade. Be sure to include the use of particular tools, need for observing, keeping the studio clean and in order for the master, as well as possible rules for behavior that might need to be included.


Discuss with the class opportunities for apprenticeship or learning an art or trade in our own times. Have them help you make a list of those they would like to learn (computer programmer, violinist, carpenter, plumber, sculptor, anything that interests them).

Next, have them divide into groups of 5 or 6 students, each group concerned with apprenticeship in one of the arts or trades that are written on the board. The assignment for each group will be to imagine they have an opportunity to learn a skill from a great master in the field they have chosen and to come up with a brief contract of apprenticeship. Remind them that the contract has to list what the master offers as well as what the apprentice promises in the way of work. Some of the questions they might consider are:

How long is the apprenticeship?

Are their special tools the apprentice will learn to use? What are they?

Where will the apprentice live?

Will there be a difference between the duties of the apprentice in the first years and in the last? If so, what are they?

Does the master offer the possibility of paid work in his or her studio when the period of apprenticeship is completed?

Who will pay for food and clothing of the apprentice during the apprenticeship?

If there are books available in the school or classroom library that would be useful for the students to consult for ideas and information about some of the trades they have chosen, give them time to consult them. When the groups have finished their contracts for apprenticeship, have someone from each group read them to the class.

Fourth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 11 - Gilbert Stuart's George Washington


Recall historical role of American portrait painters in colonial times.

Look carefully at reproduction of Gilbert Stuart's George Washington.

Contrast a Stuart portrait of Washington with Copley's Paul Revere.

Look at engraving of Washington on dollar bill.

Look at anonymous engraving of Phillis Wheatley and identify her.

Write a few sentences about your preferred portrait and reasons for choice.


Reproduction of Gilbert Stuart's George Washington, see Suggested Books below

Reproduction of John Singleton Copley's Paul Revere from Lesson 3

Reproduction of Phillis Wheatley engraving, see Suggested Books below (optional)

A few dollar bills and magnifying lenses

Paper and pencils for writing (or student journals)

Suggested Books with Reproduction of Stuart's George Washington

Brenner, Barbara. If You Were There in 1776. New York: Bradbury Press, 1994.

See in particular the chapter "The Way They Looked" for an amusing discussion of trials and expenses of wigs. Brenner's chapter "Arts and Crafts" gives information on

Benjamin West and Charles Willson Peale that would be good background for this lesson.

Clarkin, Maura A. National Gallery of Art Activity Book: 25 Adventures with Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1994.

See a color reproduction of a version of Gilbert Stuart's George Washington on p.14,

plus color reproductions of Stuart's portraits of Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe on p. 15.

Massey, Sue J. And Diane W. Darst. Learning to Look. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1992.

See a good color reproduction of George Washington opp. p. 222 and note the section about ways of presenting the painting to students that follows.

Sullivan, Charles, ed. Imaginary Gardens: American Poetry and Art for Young People. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1989.

There is a reproduction of an anonymous portrait of Phillis Wheatley (an engraving) on

p. 62 and a color reproduction of an early Stuart George Washington portrait (1796)

on p. 64.

Note for the Teacher

Students will have had background about the history of early portrait painting in colonial America in Second Grade, Visual Arts Lesson 10. As we pointed out in that lesson, students should be aware first that settlers coming to the colonies were busy setting up the bare necessities of survival for many years, then fighting for independence and setting up a functional government before any tradition for fine arts--its teaching and appreciation--could be developed. Secondly, students need to be reminded that portraits were first commissioned by families of wealth in the absence of cameras and--as the 18th century progressed--in order to honor American revolutionary heroes and statesmen in a growing tide of patriotism and historical consciousness of the new nation of the United States of America.

Second Grade, Visual Arts Lesson 12 deals specifically with Gilbert Stuart's portraits of

George Washington. For that lesson, BCP provided a slide of the portrait, which is labeled #9 in

the plastic sleeve of slides provided with the Visual Arts lessons for Second Grade. (If you have access to that group of slides, you may want to use it for this lesson.) For some students, this Fourth Grade Visual Arts Lesson 11 will be a review of Second Grade Visual Arts Lesson 12.

In the current Fourth Grade Visual Arts lessons, Lessons 3 and 4 were devoted to a review of portrait painting in general and the Copley portrait of Paul Revere in particular. You may want to review material from those lessons with the class.

Background for the Teacher

Gilbert Stuart is of the same generation of American portrait painters that included John Singleton Copley and the Peales. Unlike the others, whose work was varied, most of Stuart's income continued to come from painting George Washington, again and again. In fact, an early portrait of George Washington that Martha commissioned was never finished. Stuart knew that he could make much more money copying the portrait (called the Athenaeum head) than he could from its onetime sale. He subsequently made more than 70 copies of it, many of them after Washington's death, and it is the basis for the engraving used on the dollar bill. (The Stuart portrait of Washington reproduced in the Massey & Dart book was done, probably a year earlier, at Stuart's request that Washington come to sit for him in Philadelphia. Stuart made and sold 39 copies of that one over the years.)

Gilbert Stuart was born in 1755 to a Rhode Island tobacco farmer. He was uneducated and extremely poor as he was growing up and during his first years of studying painting in Edinburgh, where he studied with the Scottish painter, Cosmo Alexander. Enduring more poverty and an unsuccessful attempt to find work in the United States, Stuart went back to Europe, this time to England, where the American portrait painter Benjamin West was enjoying success; he became West's assistant. Stuart returned permanently to the United States in 1792, having had some artistic success in England but also having accumulated a great many debts. He was extremely successful for the rest of his life, especially since Copley and West never returned to the United States, so Stuart had no real competition as a portrait painter. He died in 1828.


Show the class a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington and ask them to tell you what kind of painting this is (portrait) and who the subject is (Washington). Say to the students: We looked at another painting with George Washington in it not too long ago. Do you remember what that was? (Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware)

What kind of painting was that? (narrative or historical painting)

How was Washington dressed in that painting? (uniform, as a general, military)

That was a picture of Washington during what part of our history? (Revolutionary War)

Do you think this portrait shows Washington before, during, or after the Revolution?

How can you tell? (after, looks older)

What makes him look older? (Students will probably guess white hair.) Tell them: At that time in history it was very fashionable for important men to have white hair; they either powdered their own hair or wore a white wig. (If you have a copy of the Clarkin book, show the students the four Gilbert Stuart portraits on p. 15 so they can see that Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe all have white hair.)

Tell the students they are correct that Washington was older in the portrait they are looking at today--that Gilbert Stuart painted three different portraits of Washington, just before

and after the turn of the 18th century, which was certainly after the Revolutionary War. Ask what

kind of expression they see on Washington's face in this portrait (sad, serious, thoughtful; accept any reasonable response) Ask: If the Leutze painting could be thought of as "Washington the General," what should we think of this Washington in Stuart's portraits? ("Washington, our President" is one possibility you might want to write on the board; "Washington, Father of our Country" is another. See whether the students could come up with any others.)

Tell the class some biographical information about Gilbert Stuart. Be sure to tell them about his time in Europe for study and work and the fact that, all together, he probably painted 114 portraits of Washington, only 3 of which were done from life. The other 111 were painted as copies of the original 3. Ask the students: Why do you think he made so many copies of the same portrait? (People wanted portraits of Washington; there were no cameras; he was assured of making money that way; accept any thoughtful answer.)

Ask the class: Can you think of any other way of making good copies of a portrait that were available to an artist during this period of our history? (Someone will undoubtedly mention photographs, so you'll have to remind them that the camera was not yet invented.) If no one guesses prints (woodcuts or engravings), tell them and then show them a dollar bill. Pass a few around the class with the lenses so that each students can take a good look. Ask them if they recognize the portrait and artist (George Washington by Gilbert Stuart)

Tell the students to pay particular attention to the lines they see and say: Those lines are what let us know that this is an engraving. Remind the students of the prints they made of their initials and brainstorm a bit about the different tools and techniques available in the 18th and 19th centuries for making prints. Remind them that, during the colonial period in this country, it was primarily the silversmiths who were good engravers and therefore had the skill to be good printmakers. Say to the students: Often the person who did the engraving was not the same person who made the drawing or painting. If you have a copy of the Sullivan book or another source for the engraving of Phillis Wheatley, show it to the class at this point and ask someone to identify her and tell the class something about her by way of review. They should know that this engraving was done shortly before the Revolution (in 1773), and we still don't know who the artist or the engraver were, nor whether they were one and the same person or two different people. Point out the lines in the Wheatley engraving and the carefully engraved items that are included in the picture.

Finally, show the students the Copley portrait of Paul Revere, have them identify by it by way of review, and ask: What do the Copley portrait and the Wheatley engraving have in common that the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington does not have? (tools or implements that tell something about what the subject does) Why do you think Stuart didn't do that in his portrait of Washington? (He didn't want to distract anything from his face. Washington was not identified as a craftsman, but a statesman.) How else did Stuart manage to put all our attention on Washington's face? (It is the only light part of the painting; the colors in the rest of the painting are very dark; all the light frames the face, as with a spotlight.)

What about Paul Revere's hair? Why do you think he has no wig? (was a common craftsman, not a fashionable or wealthy statesman) What else has Copley made important that Stuart didn't show? (hands) Why are hands so important to Paul Revere? (A craftsperson depends upon them for his skills and livelihood.) What about the reflections in the Copley portrait? Where are they? (tools on table top, reflections of fingers and squares of light in teapot)

Have the students take out pencils and paper (or their journals) and write a few sentences telling whether they prefer the Copley or the Stuart portrait and why. You may want to start them

out by writing on the board: I prefer the Copley portrait because....


I prefer the Stuart portrait because....