Fifth Grade - Visual Arts - Overview - May
 

The Visual Arts for the month complements the American History sequence: students will see how American artists viewed the continuing westward expansion in the second half of the nineteenth century, ending with the closing of the American frontier in 1890.

For the first lesson, the students will focus particularly on the American cowboy as depicted by several American artists. Frederick Remington's paintings and sculpture are especially good sources for this, along with the illustrations of N.C. Wyeth. As an activity, students will be asked to write about Remington's depiction of life in the Old West and what they think was the attraction to the life of the cowboy.

The second lesson focuses on the depiction of Native Americans, the "Indians" of the nineteenth century as American artists of the time portrayed them. George Catlin's work is filled with examples and readily available in books about the history of the period, and there are some examples among the works of Remington. The students will complete an activity inspired by the Cheyenne sacred shields.

Finally, the students will look at the lithographs produced by Currier & Ives. They will be asked to consider the kind of homogenized life depicted in the prints of Currier & Ives, and the economic factors that helped to make them so popular. The Currier & Ives brochure from a recent show at the BMA is included with the lessons this month and provides good examples for sharing with the students.
 

Fifth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 32 - The Old West in Art, Cowboys & Indians
 

Objectives

Recall American landscape paintings of Cole, Durand, and Bierstadt (Lessons 21, 22, and 23).

Look at works depicting the Old West, frontier life, and cowboys by 19th-century American artists.

Discuss the activities and lifestyle depicted in the paintings.

Describe the qualities of cowboys as depicted in the paintings and sculpture.

Write three paragraphs about the depiction of the life of the cowboy in artwork seen in today's lesson.
 

Materials

Illustrations of art works of Frederic Remington, N.C. Wyeth, and others showing the life of the cowboy in the Old West, see Suggested Books
 

Suggested Books

Student Titles

Axelrod, Alan, commentary. Songs of the Wild West. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Association with the Buffalo Bill Historical Center did this. Filled with great 19th-century genre paintings. Remington illustrations (of both sculpture and paintings) are on pp. 5, 18, 19, 23, 38, 56, 68, 75, 93, 102, 123, 124, and 126. N.C. Wyeth illustrations, on pp. 46, 62, 80, and 84.

Marrin, Albert. Cowboys, Indians, and Gunfighters: The Story of the Cattle Kingdom. New York: Atheneum, 1993.

A Remington painting, The Arizona cowboy, facing p. 54, a sketch of a typical cowboy on p. 60, The Cowboy facing p. 70, and The Night Herder facing p. 86.

Raboff, Ernest. Frederic Remington. New York: Harper, 1988.

One of the Harper Art For Children series, this has lots of good reproductions of Remington's paintings and sculpture. The sheer energy of the West and its adventurers is caught beautifully in Remington's work.

Smith, Carter, ed. The Legendary Wild West. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press, 1992.

A really good source book for information and illustrations from the American West, with maps, woodcuts, engravings, and reproductions of paintings from the Library of Congress. A section on Remington with reproductions of paintings is on pp. 80-83

Teacher Reference and for showing illustrations to class

Hughes, Robert. American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America. New York: Knopf, 1997.

Remington's Fight for the Waterhole and Defending the Stockade are reproduced on p. 204, and information about Remington is on pp. 203-205.
 

Background for the Teacher

Frederick Remington lived from 1861 to 1909, so as he was growing up in the East, the West was already at the end of its expansive, frontier days. As Hughes says, "By the end of the 1870s, it was abundantly clear that the key to American social reality was no longer the frontier but the cities, whose culture was based on fast change, harsh inequality, the friction of crowds, competing in narrow social space, industry, and the impersonal power of the machine." (American Visions, p. 202) Unlike George Catlin (see Lesson 33), who actually recorded the dwindling Indian culture, Remington created a kind of nostalgic version of the Old West for the benefit of all the people living in cities who had missed out on the reality and longed for the excitement. Nevertheless, any remnants Remington found, he sketched, starting at age 19 when he left Yale, and continuing for four years in various odd jobs such as wagon train hand, rancher, and cowboy. (Remington was a good rider and had loved horses since he was a boy.)

After his marriage to Eva Caten in New York, Remington took yearly visits to the West, to Mexico or to Canada in search of subject matter for what turned out to be nearly three thousand paintings and sketches, plus many pieces of sculpture and eight books. He was a friend to Theodore Roosevelt, whose enthusiasm for the characteristics of the Old West enhanced Remington's popularity. Remington also became the favorite illustrator in the growing market for stories in books and magazines that dramatized life in the Wild West. His success during his lifetime was phenomenal, and long after his death Remington's influence was felt in the version of the Old West created in so many Hollywood films. It is hard to comprehend how quickly the Wild West, with its cowboys and Indians, actually disappeared. As Raboff says in his little biography of Remington, "In less than 90 years, from the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804 to the last Indian War against the Sioux at Pine Ridge, South Dakota, in 1891 the Wild West was gone forever."
 

Procedure

Begin the class by asking the students to tell you what kind of paintings they looked at by Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, and Albert Bierstadt (landscapes). Remind them that these paintings showed the drama, wildness, and beauty of the American landscape. In fact, the landscape they saw by Bierstadt was a painting of the West--Rocky Mountains, Landers Peak, done in 1865. If you have reproductions of any of the 19th-century American landscapes the students have already seen this year, show them to the class. Otherwise, ask what they remember about these landscapes. (Accept any reasonable answers, and try to elicit from them some things they observed about the elements of art in these paintings--use of bodies of water flowing diagonally across the canvas to move the eye from front to back, quality of light, drama of weather, sky, and mountains.)

Next, show the students some illustrations of paintings by Frederick Remington and tell them some biographical information about him. Ask them what they see in these paintings (depending on the examples you choose: cowboys, horses, cavalry, buffalo or bison, men with guns at the ready, frontiersmen dressed in buckskins with rifles, bucking broncos, cowboys roping cattle). Ask them to talk about the colors in the paintings and about the light and shadow in them. Ask them: Do you think the landscape is important in these paintings? (yes)

What are the landscapes we see in these paintings? (again, depending on the examples: desert, wild woods, trails in the wilderness, empty plains, mountains, military forts or stockades, cattle grazing plains)

Could we call these landscape paintings? (Encourage pros and cons in a discussion in which they need to present evidence for their position.)

Point out the importance of people in the Remington paintings (and the N.C. Wyeth if you use those as examples, as well). Point to the amount of detail in clothing, faces, equipment and firearms. These things point to the fact that Remington wanted to show a whole way of life in his paintings. If you have examples of Remington's sculpture, show them to the students and ask: What do you think is the characteristic common to all of Remington's art work? What do you think is the one thing Remington seems to show in all of his work? (action). Ask them to identify actions they see in the illustrations they are looking at, and write the list on the board. The list will probably include actions such as frontiersmen in buckskins and coonskin hats aiming rifles, crouched in impossible positions; Indians riding bareback; both cowboys and Indians vaulting off bucking horses, cowboys firing volleys from raised pistols held straight up in the air; bronco busters throwing lassoes; stampeding cattle and cowboys lashing whips; cowboys defending a waterhole at gunpoint; cavalry defending the stockade with rifles. (Only in his paintings of white explorers of bygone days and one or two of Southwest Indians is there any sense of thoughtfulness or peace.)

Tell the students that the three nineteenth-century American painters whose work they looked at when they were studying the first part of Westward Expansion in History, had a lot more art training than Remington did. Remind them that Bierstadt was born in Germany and spent a lot of time there among European painters even after he had emigrated to America. Thomas Cole and Asher Durand both served long apprenticeships with skilled engravers as part of their artistic training and traveled extensively in Europe, where they were able to study paintings of European master painters. First and foremost, they wanted to be painters, great painters, and they were inspired by the landscape of America.

Say to them: Remington never went to Europe and was not trained as a painter, but he was fascinated by the excitement of all that was fast disappearing in the American West--the frontier, driving cattle to market before the trains became the main way of transporting them, training wild horses, fighting battles against the Indians for the sake of acquiring more land, the scramble for gold--all those things he wanted to set down in his paintings.
 

Activity

Ask the students to take out paper and pencils (or journals) and write three paragraphs based on the illustrations they have seen in this lesson. They should include

1. brief descriptions of what they saw in Remington's paintings,
 

2. what they think was the great attraction to men in the life of the cowboy as depicted by painters like Remington, and
 

3. whether they think Remington's paintings exaggerate the excitement of life in the Old West or whether they are accurate depictions of the things he actually saw. Tell the students to support their ideas with evidence.
 
 
 

Fifth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 33 - The Old West in Art, Cowboys & Indians
 

Objectives

Look at works depicting Native Americans by 19th-century American painters.

Discuss the activities and quality of life depicted in the paintings.

Describe the qualities of "Indians" as depicted in the paintings.

Discuss the attitude of the artists towards their subjects.

Complete an activity inspired by Cheyenne sacred shields.
 

Materials

Classroom-size map of the United States

Illustrations of American paintings of Indians by George Catlin and others.

Illustrations of Cheyenne sacred shields (optional)

Card paper and supplies for decorations such as feathers, string, beads, shells (for optional activity)

Crayons, markers, scissors, and colored construction paper for cutting into decorative shapes

(for optional activity)
 

Suggested Books

Student Titles

Axelrod, Alan, commentary. Songs of the Wild West. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.

George Catlin's oval-shaped oil Buffaloes (Bulls and Cows), which he painted on cardboard makes a full-page illustration on p. 79.

Aukerman, Ruth. Move Over, Picasso!: A Young Painter's Primer. New Windsor, MD: Pat Depke Books in association with the National Gallery of Art, 1994.

We have recommended this book before. It suggests good activities and asks thoughtful questions about the artwork it shows. George Catlin's The White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas is reproduced and discussed on pp. 20-23.

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.

This book has an excellent reproduction of George Catlin's The White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas on page 92, followed by some interesting ideas for activities such as face painting, headdress and tribal costume based on the painting. Catlin's Buffalo Lancing in the Snow Drifts is on page 94, showing Indians on snowshoes pursuing several gigantic bison.

Fradin, Dennis B. The Cheyenne. Chicago: The Childrens Press, 1988.

Part of A New True Book series which is very easy reading for fifth graders; however, a color reproduction of George Catlin's Wolf on the Hill, Chief of the Tribe is on p. 30.

Marrin, Albert. Cowboys, Indians, and Gunfighters: The Story of the Cattle Kingdom. New York: Atheneum, 1993.

Two George Catlin paintings of Native Americans are between pp. 38 and 39, and a Remington of Comanche warriors is on p. 39

Raboff, Ernest. Frederic Remington. New York: Harper, 1988.

Remington's paintings The Mystery of the Buffalo Gun and The Episode of the Buffalo Hunt, are filled with action and show Indians as skilled bareback riders of great courage. Remington's Apaches Listening, also reproduced here, shows an entirely different quality of Indians in the southwest; a great silence and noontime light pervades the scene, and the Indians on horseback in the desert, against a background of mountains, look like contemplatives.

Smith, Carter, ed. The Legendary Wild West. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press, 1992.

A section on George Catlin with reproductions of several sketches and paintings is on pp. 42-45. It also shows the cover of a two-volume book of Catlin's published in 1841 and titled Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of the North American Indians, apparently filled with sketches and considered a singular source of information.

________. Native Americans of the West. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press, 1992.

Like the book above, this is an excellent source for information and illustrations on the subject, with the visuals derived from The Library of Congress. The section on George Catlin, with reproductions, is on pp. 48-49 and reproductions of Remington paintings of Native Americans are on pp. 44-45.

Teacher Reference and for showing illustrations to class

Hughes, Robert. American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America. New York: Knopf, 1997. Hughes reproduces Indian paintings between pp. 176-189. At least one (by Charles Bird King) focuses on the Noble Savage aspect; others, more typically depict just the savagery. A painting by George Catlin called Catlin Painting the Portrait of Mah-to-toh- pa-Mondan includes the painter and his easel standing in the midst of the tribe.

Pavese, Edith M. American Highlights/Los Estados Unidos. New York: Abrams, 1993.

This bilingual book has a color reproduction of an unusual painting done in 1833 by John Wesley Jarvis called Black Hawk and His Son Whirling Thunder on p. 53. Jarvis shows the nobility of the two by painting only their faces in 3/4 view--the father's shoulder draped with a tribal chief's garment, the son in formal black tie of the period.

Wilmerding, John. Audubon, Homer, Whistler and Nineteenth-Century America. New York: McCall, 1970.

A full-page color reproduction of George Catlin's The Dakota Chief is Plate 28 on p. 46 and the early depiction of The Death of Jane McCrea (two Indians preparing to scalp her threaten her on either side) by John Vanderlyn is Plate 5 on p. 23.
 

Background For the Teacher

The first American to make a specialty of painting Native Americans was Charles Bird King, a former student of Benjamin West's in London. Between 1821 and 1842, King painted portraits for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. During that time, delegation after delegation of Indians came to negotiate, and King managed to complete 140 portraits of them. Like many of them, one (Plate 106, p. 176 in the Hughes book) depicting multiple portraits of two Pawnee chiefs, is characteristic of the Noble Savage appearance King gave to his subjects.

The best known American painter of Indians was George Catlin, who was a self-taught portrait painter in Philadelphia at the time he observed one of these delegations of Indians on their way to the capital. He was well educated in the liberal arts (and trained as a lawyer) and was deeply struck by his experience of seeing the Indians. He knew how threatened the Indians were by ever-advancing white Americans and determined he would travel into the West to capture in paint whatever evidence he could find of Indians--the way they looked and lived.

Catlin went to St. Louis to consult Gen. William Clark. (Lewis and Clark didn't take any artist with them when they explored for Jefferson in 1803-04). Clark, at the time superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Missouri Territory, took Catlin to Wisconsin with him in 1830. Two years later Catlin managed to get a berth on the maiden voyage of a steamboat built by Astor's

American Fur Company. The boat traveled over a thousand miles on the Missouri River, deeply into the territory of many tribes of Plains Indians. Catlin's paintings from this trip functioned nearly the way a diary might--simply recording as much of what he saw as he possibly could, with not much reworking or real attention to painterly detail. Eventually he had thousands of sketches, hundreds of paintings, and many Indian artifacts, which he tried to turn into a kind of "Indian Gallery" that he hoped would be bought by the government as evidence of a fast-disappearing culture.

The American Congress was not interested, and Catlin at one point took his collection to London and to Paris, where he introduced Europeans to the culture he had recorded. Back in the United States with ever-dwindling funds (he had been imprisoned for debt in London in 1852), Catlin finally was able to sell his collection to a locomotive manufacturer, who eventually gave them to the Smithsonian. In his last years, Catlin became advisor to the collection, and he died in 1872 at the age of 76.
 

Procedure

Much of what emerges in this lesson will depend upon what illustrations you show to the students; however, there seem to be two basic ways that American nineteenth-century artists depicted the Indian: one was as the Noble Savage, usually a bust or other kind of portrait showing a chief in his finery, his head held high, his gaze steady. Even a full length portrait, such as Catlin's Little Spaniard, reveals finery and the intricacies of his sacred shield and makes him look more like a Roman warrior than anything else. The other was as a brutal savage, usually shown preparing to scalp or otherwise viciously attack white men, women, or children.This second tradition started as early as 1804 with John Vanderlyn's The Death of Jane McCrea. Regardless of the particular illustration, students will probably be able to identify it as part of one tradition or the other.

Begin the lesson by reviewing some of the material the students have recently studied in History about the plight of Native Americans in the 19th century as land-hungry pioneers and entrepreneurs continued to claim more and more land in West. Ask the students: If you were living in Boston or New York in the early part of the nineteenth century, what do you think your idea of Native Americans would be? How would you know what they looked like and what kind of people they were? (Accept any thoughtful answers.)

Tell the students about George Catlin's determination to go to the West and see for himself what the Indians were like and to record in sketches and paintings as much of their way of life as he could. Show them on the map the path of the Missouri River as the route of his thousand-mile trip in 1832. Encourage them to name the tribes of Plains Indians he might have encountered on his journey. Tell them that, although most Native Americans had strong traditions of storytelling, decorative arts, pottery, weaving, and such, there was no tradition of portrait painting. When Catlin arrived, with his easel and paints, sometimes painting on cardboard and wood, most of his subjects were fascinated and happy to be included in his paintings.

Show them some portraits by George Catlin, such as The Dakota Chief: One Horn or The White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas. Ask the students to describe what they see (long or short hair? face painting? necklaces made of bear claws or animal teeth? earrings and necklaces? headdresses made of different kinds of feathers? clothing of beaded skins with colorful designs?). Ask them to comment on some of the elements of art such as the use of color, line, and shape. If they do not mention light, point out how little attention is paid to light compared to most of the paintings they have looked at this year. It is hard to see the source of light in the portraits and there is very little shading, shadow, or illumination. Ask the students why they think Catlin paid so little attention to light. (Accept any reasonable answers.)

Ask them what they can tell about the character of the men in Catlin's portraits.

Ask whether they can tell from the portraits how Catlin felt about the people he was painting.

When they have responded, show them a few paintings of Indians by other 19th-century American artists whose subjects are portrayed as ferocious men committing or intending savage acts upon other men, women, and children. Ask them to describe what they see, as above; encourage them to identify elements of art in the paintings; then ask them to respond to the last two questions above.
 

Optional Activity

(adapted from King and Roundhill, Myths and Legends, Crabtree, 1997)

If you have access to the illustrations of Cheyenne sacred shields in the King and Roundhill book, show them to the class and read them the creation myth whose characters are depicted on the shields. (There are depictions of various Native American shields in many of the paintings of Indians from the 19th century that the students have been looking at in this lesson. Point out or tell them that Cheyenne sacred shields were round or oval in shape, often made of stretched animal hides and highly decorated. Usually, at the center would be a stylized animal considered to be of great power and protection for the person. [The eagle and the turtle are two of the animals that figure largely in their myths.]) The decorations on the shields are very much like the adornments the students have seen in the paintings of chiefs of Plains Indians--beaded earrings, necklaces of animal claws, horns, and teeth, feathers of all kinds. Any of these items can be used to decorate the shields. Colored paper can also be cut into feathers and other decorative shapes and attached with pieces of colored string.

Have the students cut out their shields from the card paper, draw their sacred animal, and then decorate them with whatever materials you have made available to them.
 

Fifth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 34 - Currier & Ives
 

Objectives

Look at several prints by Currier & Ives as a popular presentation of 19th-century American life.

Hear that Currier & Ives prints are examples of inexpensive lithography.

Hear about lithography as a form of printmaking.

Consider a modern equivalent for Currier & Ives lithographs.
 

Materials

Illustrations of prints by Currier & Ives, see Suggested Books
 

Suggested Books

Student Titles

Axelrod, Alan, commentary. Songs of the Wild West. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.

Currier & Ives hand-colored lithographs are reproduced on p.13 (A Home in the Wilderness) and p. 117 (Across the Continent).

Marrin, Albert. Cowboys, Indians, and Gunfighters: The Story of the Cattle Kingdom. New York: Atheneum, 1993.

A reproduction of a Currier & Ives lithograph called The Great West faces p. 151.

Smith, Carter, ed. The Legendary Wild West. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press, 1992.

Currier and Ives are discussed on p. 26 with a color reproduction of American Frontier Life.

Teacher Reference and for showing illustrations to class

Dorsey, John. "Currier & Ives' America could be a dark place," in The Sun, 6/26/97.

This is a review of the Currier & Ives show at the Baltimore Museum of Art from June to October of 1997. Among other things, Dorsey discusses the blatant racism of Currier & Ives' "Darktown Comics," a series of prints produced in the 1880s and 90s portraying African Americans as blunderers, fools, and other condescending stereotypes.

Hall, W.S. The Spirit of America: Currier & Ives Prints. New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1930.

Color reproductions of the original lithographs are tipped in, including several on the subject of pioneers and Indians at odds with each other over the land.

________ The Red Indian: Currier & Ives Prints No. 2. New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1931.

With format identical to the volume above, the selection of reproductions is not as limited as the title suggests. Several of the lithographs are about the drama of frontier life for pioneers and the animals they encounter and hunt.

King, Roy & Burke Davis. The World of Currier & Ives. New York: Random House, 1968.

This enormous book would be effective for showing illustrations to the class. Each plate had a full page of explanatory text on the facing page.

Peters, Harry. Currier & Ives: Printmakers to the American People. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1942.

This is an old classic edition of hundreds of Currier & Ives prints with a biographical essay about the two men as well.
 

Other Resources

Teacher Packet from the BMA, prepared by Linda Andre, "Currier & Ives: Printmakers to the American People: Highlights from the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York, June 25-October 12, 1997."

The packet contains three slides, explanatory material, and suggested student activities. Teachers may borrow the packets on request. A comprehensive brochure developed for the exhibition has been made available to us by the BMA. A copy is supplied with these lessons.
 

Background For Teacher

Nathaniel Currier, born in Massachusetts in 1813, was only fifteen years old when he became apprentice in the first American lithographic press business, in Boston. The business was run by the two Pendleton brothers, who had brought the first lithographic pressman to America in 1825, when they hired a Frenchman named Dubois. At age 22, Currier began his own lithographic press in New York City. For many years Currier's brother Charles was part of the business; his special contribution was the development of special lithographic crayons made of wax, soap, shellac (and traces of other substances that repelled water), used exclusively at the business and also for sale to the general public. These crayons were apparently better than any that had been developed for the purpose. Charles was also responsible for introducing his brother to James Merritt Ives, who was hired in 1852 as bookkeeper and was always an art lover and enthusiast. Ives served with the Union army in the Civil War and became a partner after only five years in the business.

Until 1907, when the company was dissolved, Currier & Ives produced over 7,000 lithograph designs in unlimited editions. They employed a number of artists to create the sketches, another crew to do the actual lithography, and, finally, a staff of about twelve young women to hand color the lithographs. They were all trained colorists and mostly of German descent; they worked from a single model that was set up in the center of their work table, so it was visible to all of them, and each woman was responsible for just one color, passing the print on to the next worker as her part was finished. Finally, the print would reach the last person, known as the "finisher," who would examine the print and do any necessary touch up work.

The prints sold very inexpensively: in the stores, they sold for 15 to 25 cents a piece and $6 a hundred; they were of course less when sold wholesale, and still less for a wholesale quantity which might be sold to someone who regularly peddled a whole geographical area. Schools sometimes bought prints uncolored (for even less money) and allowed the students to color them. Color lithography, called chromolithography, first became known in this country at the end of the Civil War, but it was never used by Currier & Ives.

Note: Currier & Ives produced several instances of what are euphemistically called "darktown comics," stereotyping African Americans in scenes that are racist and demeaning. None of these are included in the brochure from the BMA, but teachers should be warned that they are a part what Currier & Ives produced.
 

Procedure

Show the students a variety of Currier & Ives prints, depending upon the book or books you have available. Some of the most colorful are Central-Park, Winter; The Skating Pond; American Express Train; Burning of the New York Crystal Palace; The Life of a Hunter, A Tight Fix; Life on the Prairie, The Buffalo Hunt; Across the Continent; Home to Thanksgiving; The Lightning Express Trains, Leaving the Junction; and The Rocky Mountains, Emigrants Crossing the Plains.

Tell the students something of the history of the Currier & Ives business and make sure they know that all of these works were prints. Ask for someone to explain to the class the basic techniques of how a woodblock print is made and how an engraving is made. Then explain to them that lithography is another technique for making prints, allowing many prints to be made from the same image. Tell them that lithography had been invented in 1795 by Alois Senefelder, who was Bavarian. Some time around 1820, a painter named Bass Otis who was a pupil of Gilbert Stuart (remind the students of the Gilbert Stuart paintings of George Washington they have studied) began experimenting with lithography in the United States.

Say to the students: the word lithography is built on lythos, the Greek word for stone. Large rectangular blocks of stone several inches thick were used by Currier & Ives for their prints. The stone was a special kind of slate, imported from Bavaria, in southern Germany. Preparation for receiving the image included a technique called "graining," which included spreading a thin layer of sand over the surface of the stone. Another stone was then ground over the surface in a circular motion until the surface became velvety smooth. Then the design would be sketched on it with the special lithographic crayons, which repelled water. No erasures were possible, and if a mistake was made, the whole stone would have to be regrained. After an acid bath, the whole thing would be washed, allowing the design to stand out in low relief. The wet stone would be placed in the press, where the design would then be inked with a very greasy kind of ink (Currier & Ives apparently had their own special kind of greasy ink made from a combination of beef suet, goose grease, white wax, castile soap, gum mastic, shellac, and gas black), by the roller. The ink was repelled by the wet stone, but it was picked up by the crayoned parts. Paper was then placed on the inked plate, pressure applied, and the print then pulled from the press to be dried and hand colored.

Say to the students: Because the stone was practically indestructible, a nearly unlimited supply of prints could be made from any one stone. This made the Currier & Ives prints very inexpensive, and many American families who could never afford paintings or other art works were able to buy prints to hang on their walls. Tell the students the prices of the prints and discuss with them the concept of "popular art" as it applies to Currier & Ives prints. Spend some time discussing the scenes in the prints the students have seen. Encourage them to describe the characters and activities in the scenes--how people are dressed, the ways that peoples' homes are decorated, the contrast between the "civilized" insides of houses and the much "wilder" outdoors on the frontier, and the way Native Americans are portrayed in the prints.

If you have been able to show some of the prints of dramatic happenings of the 19th century (fires especially), point out how much like our modern news media some of the Currier & Ives prints functioned. Say to the students: Now we recognize that the more appealing scenes and events as recorded by Currier & Ives depicted a certain white middle-class family that may or may not ever have existed as it was pictured; some people have compared these kinds of scenes to some of the images of popular television sitcoms. What do you think about that opinion, on the basis of the prints you have seen? Encourage responses from all of the students.

Bibliography

Student Titles

Aukerman, Ruth. Move Over, Picasso!: A Young Painter's Primer. New Windsor, MD: Pat Depke Books in association with the National Gallery of Art, 1994. (1-8845555-01-2)

Axelrod, Alan, commentary. Songs of the Wild West. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991. (0-671-74775-4)

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. (0-8109-2595-8)

Fradin, Dennis B. The Cheyenne. Chicago: The Childrens Press, 1988. (0-516-01211-8)

Marrin, Albert. Cowboys, Indians, and Gunfighters: The Story of the Cattle Kingdom. New York: Atheneum, 1993. (0-689-31774-3)

Raboff, Ernest. Frederic Remington. New York: Harper, 1988. (0-06-446079-7)

Smith, Carter, ed. The Legendary Wild West. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press, 1992. (1-56294-133-X)

________. Native Americans of the West. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press, 1992. (1-56294-131-3)

Teacher Reference and for showing illustrations to class

Hall, W.S. The Spirit of America: Currier & Ives Prints. New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1930.

________ The Red Indian: Currier & Ives Prints No. 2. New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1931. Hughes, Robert. American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America. New York: Knopf, 1997. (0-679-42627-2)

King, Roy & Burke Davis. The World of Currier & Ives. New York: Random House, 1968.

Pavese, Edith M. American Highlights/Los Estados Unidos. New York: Abrams, 1993. (0-8109-1930-3)

Peters, Harry. Currier & Ives: Printmakers to the American People. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1942.

Wilmerding, John. Audubon, Homer, Whistler and Nineteenth-Century America. New York: McCall, 1970. (8415-1001-6)