Adventures in Art History Adventures in Art    

Lesson 25: The Banjo Lesson

by Henry Ossawa Tanner


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    Adventures in Art History Adventures in Art    

Lesson 25: The Banjo Lesson

by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Directions

Study the painting for one week.

Over the week:

  • Look at the painting.
  • Read the synopsis.
  • Study the vocabulary words.
  • Read about the artist.
  • Practice reciting the names of the artist and the painting.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Study the review questions.

Synopsis

In 'The Banjo Lesson,' Tanner humanizes a stereotype in his time of black people as entertainers, particularly as caricatures playing banjos. In this painting, an elderly man teaches his young grandson how the play the banjo. He cradles his small grandson in his lap, and both are intent on their roles as teacher and pupil. Their surroundings are modest, and although the grandfather may not be able to shower his grandson with financial riches, he shares his rich knowledge and appreciation of music.

Vocabulary

Banjo: A stringed musical instrument with a long neck and a round body.
Lesson: A period of learning or teaching.
Stereotype: A widely held but oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.
Caricature: Exaggerations used to make someone or something comic or grotesque.
Pupil: A student in school.

Concepts

Henry Ossawa Tanner painted 'The Banjo Lesson.'

  1. Henry Ossawa Tanner was born in 1859 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. See his picture below.
  2. Find Tanner's state of birth (PA) on the map of the continental United States below.
  3. His father was a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. His mother was born a slave, but escaped through the Underground Railroad to the North.
  4. He studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he was the only black student. As a painter, Tanner was considered a realist, painting things as they are collectively perceived.
  5. Tanner suffered mental anguish from the racism he experienced in America, which he described in his autobiography. Consequently, he left America for Paris, France, where he lived for the remainder of his life. Find France on the map of Europe below.
  6. He died in 1937 in Paris, France at the age of 77.

Enrichment

Activity 1: Can You Find It?

During the week, study the painting and find the following:

  • Pitcher
  • Dishes
  • Banjo
  • Chairs
  • Table
  • Hat
  • Wood
  • Coffeepot

Activity 2: Narrate the Painting

  • After studying the painting, narrate the scene shown in the painting aloud using your own words.

Activity 3: Complete Vocabulary Activities

  • While studying the vocabulary words, point them out in the painting.
  • Define each of the vocabulary words in your own words.

Activity 4: Color the Artist   

  • Click the crayon above, and complete page 32 of 'Kindergarten Art History Coloring Book.'

Activity 5: Color the Painting   

  • Click the crayon above, and complete page 33 of 'Kindergarten Art History Coloring Book.'

Activity 6: Hear the Sounds of the Painting

  • Listen to the banjo playing in the video below.

Review

Question 1

Who are the characters in the painting?
1 / 6

Answer 1

A man and his grandson.
1 / 6

Question 2

What is the grandfather doing?
2 / 6

Answer 2

Teaching his grandson to play the banjo.
2 / 6

Question 3

What is the grandson doing?
3 / 6

Answer 3

Learning to play the banjo.
3 / 6

Question 4

What is the setting of the painting?
4 / 6

Answer 4

Inside a house.
4 / 6

Question 5

What instrument do you see in the painting?
5 / 6

Answer 5

A banjo.
5 / 6

Question 6

What else do you see in the house?
6 / 6

Answer 6

Chairs, a table, a white pitcher, some dishes, a hat, some wood, a pan, a coffeepot, some pictures on the wall.
6 / 6

  1. Who are the characters in the painting? A man and his grandson.
  2. What is the grandfather doing? Teaching his grandson to play the banjo.
  3. What is the grandson doing? Learning to play the banjo.
  4. What is the setting of the painting? Inside a house.
  5. What instrument do you see in the painting? A banjo.
  6. What else do you see in the house? Chairs, a table, a white pitcher, some dishes, a hat, some wood, a pan, a coffeepot, some pictures on the wall.

References

  1. 'Henry Ossawa Tanner.' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.