Circa 1900: An Art and Humanities Resource

Art Social Studies | Grade 6

Cultural Diffusion in Art ca. 1900

Download PDF
Download Presentation

Overview

Looking

Studio

Extension

Introduction

Cultural immersion is the act of surrounding yourself with the culture of a place foreign to you. It might include living with a family, going to school in another country, or simply helping with a meal. Cultural diffusion is the spread of cultural beliefs, ideas, and/or social activities from one group to another. Art is influenced by the cultural experiences of artists. This lesson looks at artists who moved to a different country and changed their artistic styles to reflect the influence of new cultures. Paul Gauguin was born in 1848 in Paris, France and moved to Tahiti in his later years. His art was influenced by the culture of the South Pacific islands. Mary Cassatt was born in 1844 in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania and moved to France as an adult. She joined the French Impressionist movement which was heavily influenced by Japanese prints. The art of Gauguin and Cassatt reflect their cultural influences.

Objectives

  • Observe artworks of both artists and describe the cultural influences.
  • Identify cultural immersion versus cultural diffusion.
  • Identify how the time period and cultural influences impacted the artists.
  • Compare and contrast artwork.

Related Artwork

  1. Discuss cultural immersion. Cultural immersion is the act of surrounding yourself with a culture that is foreign to you. What are some examples of cultural immersion? How could cultural immersion influence art?
  2. Discuss cultural diffusion. Cultural diffusion is the spread of cultural beliefs or social activities from one cultural group to another. What are some examples of cultural diffusion? How could cultural diffusion influence art?
  3. Show Paul Gauguin’s Portrait of the Artist with the Idol. Explain that Paul Gauguin was a French artist who eventually moved to Tahiti. Ask the students to describe the artwork. List everything you see in the painting and discuss using the following questions:
    • What things do you think came from the artist’s own culture?
    • What things could have come from another culture?
  4. Show Paul Gauguin’s Sister of Charity. Ask students to describe the artwork. What was the first thing you noticed? What do you think is happening here? Discuss the cultural influences using the following questions:
    • How is this an example of cultural immersion?
    • How is this an example of cultural diffusion
    • How is this painting different from the first one?
  5. Show Mary Cassatt’s The Lamp. Explain that Mary Cassatt was an American woman who moved to France where she exhibited with the Impressionists. Impressionism was influenced by and adopted characteristics from Japanese prints including the depiction of every day life, the use of patterns, unusual perspectives, and flatness. Ask the students to describe the artwork. List everything you see in the painting and discuss using the following questions:
    • What things do you think came from the artist’s own culture?
    • What things could have come from another culture?
  6. Show Mary Cassatt’s The Letter. Ask students to describe the artwork. What can you identify in the print? Discuss the cultural influences found in The Letter using the following questions:
    • What in this picture might come from another culture? Why do you think that
    • How do you think the Japanese prints influenced Cassatt’s art?
  7. Display both artworks and discuss using the following questions:
    • What influences do you see between Cassatt’s art and her life?
    • How are these works similar? How are they different?
    • Would you consider this cultural immersion or cultural diffusion? Why or why not?

Studio Procedure

  1. Think about your own culture. What aspects of your culture have influenced you the most (fashion, religion, technology, holidays, food, etc.)? Have you ever experienced cultural immersion? How has cultural diffusion affected your life?
  2. Create a picture reflecting the cultural influences in your life.
  1. Research one of the following artists: Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Gabrielle Munter, Mardsen Hartley, Pierre-August Renoir, Max Weber, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, or Edouard Manet.
  2. Read a biography of the artist and look for instances of cultural immersion and/or cultural diffusion. Find a work of art from the artist that illustrates cultural immersion or diffusion and explain why.

This resource is made possible in part by a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.