Small groups of students will first speculate on a chronology for these three selected paintings. Then each group will explore one of these three paintings, looking closely at the artwork, discussing it and finding out about the artist and its context. Students next speculate about what the painting tells about the past and how people lived at this time. After small groups present what they discovered and speculated, class as a whole returns to the original speculated chronology and corrects it if needed. To conclude lesson, each student selects two of the three artworks about which to write. Each student will compare and contrast and reveal what each tells the viewer about the past and how people lived at that time.
Equality of Rank
Time Alloted2 Hours
State Content Standards
Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards, Grade 1
1.3 Identify the elements of art in objects in nature, in the environment, and in works
of art, emphasizing line, color, shape/form, and texture.
Historical and Cultural Context:
3.1 Recognize and discuss the design of everyday objects from various time periods
3.2 Identify and describe various subject matter in art.
Connections, Relationships, Applications:
5.4 Describe objects designed by artists that are used at home and at school.
Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards, Grade 4
1.5 Describe and analyze the elements of art, emphasizing form as they are used in
works of art and found in the environment.
Historical and Cultural Context:
3.1 Describe how art plays a role in reflecting life.
4.5 Describe how the individual experiences of an artist may influence the
development of specific works of art.
Connections, Relationships, Applications
5.3 Construct diagrams, maps, graphs, timelines, and illustrations to communicate
ideas or tell a story about a historical event.
5.4 Read biographies and stories about artists and summarize the readings in short
reports, telling how the artists mirrored or affected their time period or culture.
English Language Content Standards, Grade 1
Listening and Speaking Strategies:
1.5 Use descriptive words when speaking about people, places, things, and events.
2.4 Provide descriptions with careful attention to sensory detail.
English Language Content Standards, Grade 4
1.1 Select a focus, an organizational structure, and a point of view based upon
purpose, audience, length, and formal requirements.
1.2 Create multiple-paragraph compositions.
1.10 Edit and revise selected drafts to improve coherence and progression by adding,
deleting, consolidating and rearranging text.
Written and Oral English Language Conventions:
1.1 Use simple and compound sentences in writing and speaking.
1.4 Use parentheses, commas in direct quotations, and apostrophes in the
in the possessive case of nouns and in contractions.
1.6 Capitalize names of magazines, newspapers, works of art, musical compositions,
organizations and the first word in quotations when appropriate.
1.7 Spell correctly roots, inflections, suffixes and prefixes, and syllable construction.
History-Social Science Content Standards, Grade 1
1.4 Students compare and contrast everyday life in different times and places around the world and recognize that some aspects of people, places, and things change over time while others stay the same.
3. Recognize similarities and differences of earlier generations in such areas as work (inside and outside the home), dress, manners, stories, games, and festivals, drawing from biographies, oral histories, and folklore.
- Focus works, projected from the Internet or copies of each
- Paper and pencils for making notes and final written exercise
- Chart paper for teacher to record observations and conclusions
- Commentary on each focus painting
Wilhelm Marc is a 19th century German painter of everyday scenes. His son Franz Marc was one of the most well known German Expressionist painters who belonged to the group Der Blaue Reiter in the early 20th century.
Equality of Rank seems to tell a story about a young privileged girl who invites those of a lower social class into her world.
Equality of Rank takes place outside in the country at a picnic, dance or other festivity in the summer on a beautiful sunny day.
Marc painted this in 19th century Germany. Since the action of the painting takes place in the country, it is unknown what the cities are like or when exactly the painting was created. Is it an accurate observation of life at a specific time and place or a wish to return to a life of a simpler time?
Why is this significant?
The Crocker Art Museum collection contains German academic history paintings. This is an example of a 19th century academic genre painting.
Make a connection:
Locate another genre painting from another country or another time period in the Crocker Art Museum. Compare and contrast it with Equality of Rank. Without looking at the date of the second genre painting and based on your analysis of the costume and environment, etc., decide which of the two is earlier in time.
How do artworks tell us about the past?
• Teacher projects or distributes copies of each of the three paintings to small groups of students (about 5 per group). In these small groups students discuss which painting they think was created first, second and third, putting them into a chronology. Teacher asks for feedback from each small group and records their speculations on chart paper. If all groups do not agree, record the chronology for groupings and note which groups belonged to each of the groupings.
• Teacher assigns one of the three paintings to each small group for further looking and discussion. Students will look carefully and silently for about 3 minutes at the print and jot down any words or ideas that come to mind on scratch paper. Based only on what they see in the artwork, students can also speculate on what they think the work might be “about.”
• Students in the small groups will then be instructed to discuss with one another the following questions. One member of each group will act as recorder, noting down the important ideas of the group.
o What do you see?
o What does it mean?
o Why do you think so?
• Teacher facilitates a discussion and charts important information from one small group about each work of art. Other groups who explored the same artwork are encouraged to add any new or additional observations. Each work of art will be discussed individually.
• Teacher distributes a copy of the commentary to each student for the painting explored by his/her small group. If there are readers in the classroom for whom the commentary is too difficult, then the small group can do a “read around” or pair a good reader with a poor one and the pair can read the commentary together. After reading the commentary, each small group discusses what the group learned and what it adds to what the group already knew. At the conclusion of the small group discussions, the teacher asks for feedback about each of the three paintings and charts new observations / learning.
• Class then returns to the original chronologies they had developed. They determine the correct chronology after their study of each of the selected works. Teacher then opens up a discussion of what each work of art tells the viewer about the past and about the people who lived at that time. Teacher charts important observations as he/she facilitates the discussion.
• At the conclusion of the lesson or the next day, teacher asks each student to write a page and a half about he following:
o Select two of the three paintings to compare and contrast.
o Reveal what each painting tells the viewer about the past and how people lived at that time.
For younger students: Teacher might introduce one painting per day or art session and then review each. Teacher can then facilitate a discussion and chart students’ responses about what the paintings tell them about the past. Teacher might also ask younger students in small groups to illustrate a student-produced story that tells about the time in which a particular painting took place.
Assessment: to what extent did students
• Participate in small group discussions?
• Participate in classroom discussions?
• Write an essay which compares and contrasts two of the three artworks and reveals what each painting tells the viewer about the past?
• Address appropriate (for grade level) written English standards?
Wilhelm Marc was a 19th century German artist who was born in Landshut, Bavaria in 1839. Nothing is known of his early life. He completed law studies at the age of 24 and then decided to become an artist. He studied at the Munich Academy under Erich Correns, a portrait painter. The two were friends and took many trips to Italy together until the death of Correns in 1877. At the age of 37 Marc married Sophie Maurice, the governess of his sister’s children and an Alsatian from a strict Calvinist tradition. They had two sons, Paul born in 1877 and Franz in 1890. Franz Marc was the well-known painter of German Expressionism and described his father as a landscapist of “curiously philosophical character.”
As a student at an art academy, Marc participated in a strictly formulated and rigorous course of study. Before an artist was taught to paint with a brush, he had to demonstrate a great proficiency in drawing, considered the foundation of academic painting. Students first copied prints after classical sculptures, becoming familiar with principles of contour, light and shade. Academies believed that by copying, students would learn art making from the great artists of the past. In the next stage of training, students drew from plaster casts of famous classical sculptures. Upon advancement, students were allowed to draw from a posed live model. After advancing step by step through this required drawing instruction, the student was allowed to join the studio of an academician and learn how to paint. Throughout this entire process, competitions were held. Students painted a composition in which the subject was predetermined within a specified period of time. These competitions measured each student’s progress. By the time a student had completed his training, he would be able to produce a painting that met the strenuous standards of the academy. During his training the student also learned about the academy’s hierarchy of genres. At the top of this hierarchy was history painting, classical, religious, mythological, literary, and allegorical. In descending order from history painting was genre (scenes of everyday life) painting, portraiture, still life and landscape at the bottom.
With the exception of three mythological paintings, Marc became an academic genre painter whose subjects were mainly simple, ordinary people. Marc painted many works which focused on the rural life of the peasant. The titles of many of his works are intimate and sentimental. For example Music in the Alpine Meadow, Children at Play, The First Bouquet, Morning Prayer, and Parting among others. Such sentimental and anecdotal- sounding titles betray Marc’s upbringing during the end of the Biedermeier period (see below).
Marc received a bronze medal at the 1894 London Exhibition, held in the Crystal Palace. In 1892 Marc contracted a terminal illness and the portrait of him painted in 1902 by his son shows his physical deterioration. Wilhelm Marc died in Pasing, a suburb of Munich, in 1907.
19th Century Painting in Munich:
At the beginning of the 19th century, Germany was a conglomeration of small states and remained so until 1870 when it finally became unified as one country. With Napoleon’s invasion of German territory in 1805 the Holy Roman Empire came to an end. Napoleon formed a league of German states which lasted until 1814 when he fell from power. At the Congress of Vienna the defunct Holy Roman Empire was re-constituted into the German Confederation with 39 states. The city of Munich became the center of Bavaria, one of the 39 states. Ludwig I, ruler of Bavaria, tried to establish himself as the artistic mentor of Germany and sought to bring about a whole new era of art by assembling the best talents in Germany and making them work for the greater glory of the Bavarian monarchy.
The name “Biedermeier” refers to the period between the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and 1848. The fictional character of Gottfried Biedermeier was invented by the writer Adolf Kussmaul in 1853 who along with Ludwig Eichenrodt composed “Biedermeier Poems” for a Munich satirical magazine. The Biedermeier character was modeled on a real person, Samuel Friedrich Sauter, a childlike, docile and simple-minded teacher and poet. The name Biedermeier subsequently became synonymous with the period, its arts, furniture and lifestyle. Biedermeier paintings depicted ordinary middle-class life, with a greater or lesser degree of sentimentality but always unheroically and without political comment. It was the antithesis of academic history painting and showed a propensity to sentimental moralizing, anecdotal detail and sly touches of humor. This was the period into which Wilhelm Marc was born.
By the end of the 19th century German artists were adopting the tenets of Realism. Carl Spitzweg was the leading Munich artist and like other artists of this time included anecdotal narrative in his works. Wilhelm Marc’s Equality of Rank is a good example of anecdotal narrative with the principal figure, the little girl in white, welcoming the young rural boys into her circle. The viewer engages with her gesture and wants to know more of the story behind the painting: who are these boys? Who is the little girl? Is the painting a document of some kind of celebration? If so, what is the occasion?
Title and date: Equality of Rank, 19th century
Artist and dates: Wilhelm Marc, 1839 – 1907
The focus of Equality of Rank is the little girl in the crisp and clean white dress with her lace gloves, fashionable straw hat and buttoned shoes. Her white dress contrasts with the rest of the earthy colors in the painting and she appears to stand in a small ray of sunshine which spotlights her. Her gesture indicates her wish to engage the two rural boys into the festivities. They are clearly of a different social class with one boy’s bare feet, the rustic clothes and the shyness, exhibited by the taller boy. Behind her is a group of dancing children, some well-dressed like the protagonist and others dressed similarly to the two boys. Seeming to enter the “stage” from the left is a group of two girls, one well dressed with gloves leading another with no shoes. At the right a group of adults sit at a table and observe the scene. In front of the adults a little barefoot girls sits on the grass beside a cradle.
Is the little girl inviting the boys to join in the festivities for this day only or as a gesture of true equality? Based on the moment depicted, the question is impossible to answer. Perhaps the uncertainty of the answer retains the viewer’s interest longer than if the answer was clear.
The painting bears the smooth finish of academic art, whereby brush strokes are blended one into another so that the illusion of reality is not broken. Marc has handled groups of people in space convincingly. The groups appear somewhat isolated from each other, as each presents its own anecdotal narrative. However, the large tree to the right of center in the middle ground unifies all the groups under its umbrella of branches.
www.metmuseum.org “Central Europe and Low Countries, 1800-1900 A.D.,” 2/5/09.
en.wikipedia.org “Academic Art,” 2/12/09.
Martin Henig, Sabrina Mitchell, Eric Fernie, Marguerite Kay, Peter Cannon-Brookes, William Vaughan and Frank Whitford. Art Treasures in Germany. McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1973.
Christian Lenz. The Neue Pinakothek Munich. C. H. Beck/Scala Publishers, 2003.
Edna Marelia, CAM Research Docent. “Equality of Rank,” April, 1986.
Mark Rosenthal. Franz Marc: 1880 – 1916. University Art Museum Berkeley, 1980.
Thieme, B. and Becker, F. Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Kunstler, Volume 24. E.A. Seeman, Leipzig, 1930.