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Analysis of Portraits at the Frick

Earlier this week, sixth graders and their art teacher Hannah Frassinelli visited the nearby Frick Collection for a guided tour of some of the Collection's masterpieces in portraiture.

Museum docent and Saint David's parent Olivia Birkelund Gerard expertly led the discussion at each painting, encouraging the boys to make thoughtful observations about symbolism, use of props, background, expression, and overall composition as they took in master works that included a self portrait of Rembrandt, Holbein's portraits of Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, and Bellini's St. Francis in the Desert.

The boys were eager to express their observations, whether about the intensity of the eyes and naturalness of the Rembrandt, the rich colors of the St. Thomas More, or the biblical allusions in St. Francis.

Most impressive were the inferences the boys made about the possible intent of the artist, or the emotional state of the subject, all based on what they observed.

Our boys will consider what they learned when they create their own "aspirational portraits" in class. They are charged with drawing a self portrait that through elements such as costume and background reflects a person they admire, and on using their artistry to express emotion and inner life.

This year, our school-wide theme is deliberate moral introspection; as the boys determine whom to select for their aspirational portraits, they will need to reflect and consider deeply the qualities that make a person admirable.


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