Free History ThroughArt

Welcome to the archive of free HistoryThroughArt lectures for homeschoolers, offered by HistoryAtOurHouse! Check back monthly for additional free lectures, or sign up for the HistoryAtOurHouse mailing list to be notified of updates and get other program news.


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1. Introduction to Art Appreciation and HistoryThroughArt

Young Lady with a Shiner, by Norman Rockwell

This first lecture in this free HistoryThroughArt series introduces some of the techniques that are used in visual art appreciation throughout the program. As is so often the case with great art, what students will find by exploring this image carefully is that there is “more than meets the eye,” even when that eye is a black eye!

2. Exploring the Meaning of Ancient History

Bonaparte before the Sphinx, by Jean-Leon Gerome

In a barren landscape, in what appears to be a barren composition, a soldier confronts the colossal remnant of a distant past. He sits in contemplation. What is he doing there, and what problem does the Sphinx pose for him?

3. It’s Good to be Pharaoh!

Nile Hunt of Cleopatra, by Hans Makart

Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian once called Egypt “the gift of the river.” Hans Makart, a nineteenth century Austrian history painter brings this theme to life in his vivid visualization of the life of leisure of Egypt’s rulers.

4. The Challenges of Deciphering Visual Art

A “Mystery” Scene, by Alexandre Cabanel

Many older students of Ancient history will readily identify the subject of this image, but for younger students, the challenge of interpreting a work of visual art without any specific awareness of what is depicted provides a unique experience.

5. Art Reveals the World of Ancient Mesopotamia

Diversions of an Assyrian King, by F.A. Bridgman

Although this image can be upsetting for younger viewers, it provides students with an opportunity to gain an important insight into the values of ancient Assyrian civilization. Parents should coach their children through this one.

6. Insight into the Fall of Rome

The Favorites of Emperor Honorius, by J.W. Waterhouse

As barbarians swarmed over the empire, Rome was placed in the hands of a boy emperor. When the man child received the news that Roma had perished, it is said that he cried out and said, ‘And yet it has just eaten from my hands!’. (His favorite bird was called “Roma.”)

7. Insight into the Dark Ages

A Scene from Ancient History, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

In this scene of deceptive simplicity, a specially assembled and varied group participates in an important event, through which Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema portrays the significance of the takeover of the Roman world by the Germanic barbarians of Europe.

8. The Power of the Church in the Dark Ages

The Excommunication of Robert II, by Jean-Paul Laurens

In a large barren chamber, a woman in white clings desperately to a man whose scepter lies on the floor at his feet. What has happened? Is this man not a king? How could he be reduced to a state of apparent shock and helplessness, and of what significance is the departing group of characters?

9. The World of Feudal Christendom

A Scene from European History, by Emile Signol

A huge cast of characters participates in what appears to be a massive undertaking, but what exactly is it? There are armed men, but also women and children. Can we decipher the exact location of the event simply by analyzing the picture? What else can we learn by inductively exploring this painting?

10. The World of the Reformation

A Scene from European History, by Anton von Werner

A large motley cast of characters is assembled in a hall to witness a “diet” — an imperial court. A monk presents his case to the court, resulting in a wide range of reactions from the audience. Who or what is on trial? What will be the result? What aspect of the Reformation does the scene reveal?

11. The Age of Discovery

A Scene from American History, by Peter Rothermel

In a dark cavernous chamber, a presentation is underway to a king and queen. The speaker has elicited a dramatic reaction. Who is he? What did he say? Where is this scene unfolding? And what is at stake?

12. Tales of the New World

A Scene from American History, by Sir Edward Everett Millais

Two boys sit at the seaside, listening rapt with wonder, to a story told by a man who gestures energetically to the ocean while telling his tale. What does he have to say? What is the reaction of each of the boys, and who are they?

NEW: 13. Art Reveals Colonial Life

A Scene from American History, by John Gadsby Chapman

Light cascades down on a woman in a beautiful white gown kneeling before a man also robed in white. The assembled throng of colonists and natives reacts variously, as a crucial ceremony begins the assimilation of America into Western civilization.

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