Small groups of students will look closely and explore two 19th century portraits, painted only 12 years apart. They will then compare and contrast the two portraits. The small groups will define criteria that they believe create a good portrait. They will then use these criteria to select the better of the two 19th century portraits and create a persuasive paragraph / presentation in support of their conclusions.
Portrait of Margaret Crocker
Time Alloted2 1/2 Hours Class Time (lesson can be divided into multiple days)
State Content Standards
Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards
1.1 Identify and describe all the elements of art found in selected works of art (color, shape/form, line, texture, space, value).
1.2 Discuss works of art as to theme, genre, style, idea, and differences in media.
Historical and Cultural Context:
3.2 View selected works of art from a culture and describe how they have changed or not changed in theme and content over a period of time.
4.1 Construct and describe plausible interpretations of what they perceive in works of art.
4.3 Develop specific criteria as individuals or in groups to assess and critique works of art.
English Language Content Standards
1.1 Read aloud narrative & expository text fluently and accurately and with appropriate pacing, intonation, and expression.
1.1 Choose the form of writing that best suits the intended purpose.
1.2 Create multiple-paragraph expository compositions.
b. Develop the topics with supporting details and precise verbs, nouns, and adjectives to paint a visual image in the mind of the reader.
2.5 Write persuasive compositions:
a. State a clear position on a proposition or proposal.
b. Support the position with organized and relevant evidence.
c. Anticipate and address reader concerns and counterarguments.
Written and Oral English Language Conventions
1.1 Use simple, compound, and compound-complex sentences; use effective coordination and subordination of ideas to express complete thoughts.
1.4 Use correct capitalization.
Listening & Speaking:
1.4 Select a focus, an organizational structure, and a point of view, matching the purpose, message, occasion and vocal modulation to the audience.
1.5 Emphasize salient points to assist the listener in following the main ideas and concepts.
1.7 Use effective rate, volume, pitch, and tone and align nonverbal elements to sustain audience interest and attention.
2.4 Deliver persuasive presentations:
a. Provide a clear statement of the position.
b. Include relevant evidence.
c. Offer a logical sequence of information.
d. Engage the listener and foster acceptance of the proposition or proposal.
- Focus artworks, projected from the Internet, or copies of.
- Paper and pencils for making notes
- Commentary on the focus artworks
Frank M. Pebbles was a 19th/early 20th century portrait painter. He was commissioned in 1875 to paint the portrait of Ulysses S. Grant in Sacramento.
The Portrait of Margaret Crocker presents one of California’s early 20th century “art matrons.” She and her husband Judge Edwin B. Crocker added the Crocker Art Gallery onto their home as an entertainment center and filled it with the 700 to 900 paintings they brought back from a Grand Tour of Europe with their four daughters in 1869 – 1871.
The portrait was painted in 1877. Frank Pebbles maintained a studio in San Francisco on Montgomery Street between 1875 and 1880. He also painted the portrait of Charles Crocker, the brother of Edwin Crocker and one of the “Big Four” of the transcontinental railroad.
1877, when Frank Pebbles had a studio in San Francisco.
Why is this significant?
After Judge Crocker’s death, Margaret Crocker became a social and civic leader in Sacramento. Her most significant gift was the Crocker Art Gallery, its contents and the land around it to the City of Sacramento and the newly formed California Museum Association in May of 1885. The Crocker Art Gallery became the nucleus of today’s Crocker Art Museum.
Make a connection:
The Crocker Art Museum has a number of portraits from the past. Find one that is intriguing and explore the artist and the sitter.
What makes a good portrait?
Focus Artworks & Artists:
Portrait of Margaret Crocker, 1877 Portrait of Mary Blanche Hubbard, 1889
Frank M. Pebbles (1839 – 1928) Mary Curtis Richardson (1848 – 1931)
Oil on canvas Oil on canvas
• Teacher will either project the focus artworks or give copies to small groups of students. Teacher will assign either the Pebbles’ Portrait of Margaret Crocker or Richardson’s Portrait of Mary Blanche Hubbard to the small groups. The artworks should be evenly divided between the small groups of students. Students will look carefully and silently at the assigned print and jot down any words or ideas that come to mind. Based on what they see in the artwork, students can also speculate on the personality of the sitter in the portrait. What does the portrait tell about the personality of the sitter?
• Students in the small groups will be instructed to discuss with one another the following questions. One member of the group will act as a recorder, noting down the important ideas of the group.
• What do you see?
• What does it mean?
• Why do you think so? (Refer back to the painting. What is it in the portrait that makes you think in this way?)
• Teacher facilitates a discussion about one portrait and then the second portrait and charts important information from the small groups. Small groups report on their group discussions. After a few groups have presented their reports, other groups can be called on to present “new information” only. Remember to uncover all possible information about one portrait. Then uncover all possible information about the second portrait.
• Teacher distributes a copy of the appropriate commentary to each student in the small group, according to the selected artwork of that group. Each student will read the commentary. If there are readers in the classroom for whom the commentary is too difficult, then the teacher can do a “read around” or pair good readers with poor ones and they can read the commentary together. After reading the commentary, teacher can ask students what new and important information they have learned. Teacher charts this new information. Remember to discuss only one artist at a time: first the Pebbles’ portrait and then the Richardson portrait or vice versa. At the end of both discussions teacher asks students to write a couple of paragraphs about the artist and the artwork, which they studied. They should record ideas about the artist and artwork which they feel are important to know. Students can share their writings.
• Teacher then asks students to compare and contrast the two portraits. Teacher can draw a Venn diagram on chart paper in order to chart the discussion and document the comparisons and contrasts. Students from all groups participate in this part of the lesson. This part of the lesson and following might take place on a second day.
• Teacher then asks students in small groups to discuss and then to write down three criteria for “What makes a good portrait?” Teacher circulates around the room to be certain that each group has written down three criteria.
• Teacher then gives students the following assignment: each small group will use the criteria they just defined in order to assess the two portraits studied in this lesson. Which one, according to the defined criteria, makes the better portrait? After arriving at a conclusion, the group will compose two or more persuasive paragraphs in support of their conclusions. One member of the group will be responsible for writing up the conclusions of the group into paragraphs.
• After completion of the paragraphs, teacher will ask each small group to present their conclusions to the class. The written paragraphs will then be displayed alongside prints of the two portraits in the classroom. The paragraphs might also be kept for Open House for parents to view.
Assessment: to what extent did students
• Participate in small group discussions about the portraits by Frank M. Pebbles and Mary Curtis Richardson?
• Participate in classroom “compare and contrast” discussion of the two portraits?
• Participate in composing criteria for “What makes a good portrait?”?
• Participate in writing and presenting the conclusions of the small group?
Frank Marion Pebbles was born in Weatherfield, New York in 1839. He began his career at the age of 17 when he painted his first portrait in Monroe, Wisconsin after he had studied briefly with Theodore Catlin. While living in Wisconsin he focused on the painting of signs and other ornamental work. After the Civil War Pebbles moved back to New York where he studied for one year at the National Academy of Design under Edwin White. He then moved to Chicago where he continued his art training, this time under G.P.A. Healy. He became well known in the Midwest for his portraits of railroad officials and illustrious politicians. Unfortunately, he lost many of his early works in an 1871 Chicago fire.
Four years later Pebbles moved to San Francisco where he set up his studio on Montgomery Street and painted some of his most recognized work. It was in the very first year of his San Francisco studio that he painted the portrait of Ulysses S. Grant in Sacramento. He painted other well-known luminaries, such as Charles Crocker and James Flood. It was probably at this time in his career that he painted the portrait of Margaret Crocker. After only five years in California, he returned to Chicago and lived in the Oak Park area for the next 35 years. In 1915 he returned to San Francisco to attend the Panama Pacific International Exposition where he exhibited some of his work. At that time he decided to remain in California and lived with his daughter in Alameda until his death. He abandoned portraiture after 1915 and began to paint northern California landscapes. He died in 1928.
Early 20th Century Women as Art Patrons:
The early 20th century in America produced a number of wealthy and prominent women, such as Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Lillie P. Bliss, Mary Quinn Sullivan, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, Isabella Steward Gardner and Peggy Guggenheim, women who provided financial, moral, and political support to advance the arts in America. Noted art historian Wanda Corn has dubbed these women “art matrons.”
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875 – 1942) was an enthusiastic collector of young, progressive American artists such as Robert Henri and John Sloan. To support their art, she opened the Whitney Studio in 1914. She offered her entire collection of some 500 works fifteen years later to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who promptly rejected her offer. As a result, she founded her own museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and chose as her first director Juliana Force (1876 – 1979). These two women worked tirelessly to make the Whitney a major stimulus to American art. Lillie P. Bliss (1864-1931), Mary Quinn Sullivan (1877 – 1939) and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (1874 – 1948) together founded the Museum of Modern Art in New York City when they saw a need for a museum which would collect and exhibit the newest art. Peggy Guggenheim (1898 – 1979) went to Paris in 1920 and was immediately attracted to avant-garde art. She began to form her own collection, and today it is housed in a Venetian palace where the public can view these artworks. Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840 – 1924) also founded her own museum in 1903. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston contains an impressive and comprehensive collection of art.
California also had its early 20th century “art matrons”: Jane Stanford (1828 – 1905) and Sacramento’s own Margaret Crocker (1822 – 1901). Jane Stanford founded the Stanford Museum on the grounds of Stanford University in 1905. She and her husband had established the university as a memorial to their son Leland Stanford, Jr. who had died at a young age. Margaret Crocker came to Sacramento with her husband Edwin Crocker in 1852 and during her marriage devoted her time to family, church, and the community. After Edwin Crocker’s stroke in 1869, she and her husband and their four daughters embarked on a two-year Grand Tour of Europe, returning with 700 to 900 paintings and 3,000 master drawings. Included in the renovation of their Sacramento home was an art gallery building where they installed their paintings and opened it to the public at unusual hours: 1 to 5 afternoons and 8 to 10:30 evenings. Edwin passed away in 1875. A few years later Margaret Crocker came into her own as a social and civic leader. In May 1885 she presented the Crocker Art Gallery and most of its collections to the City of Sacramento and the newly formed California Museum Association. Margaret Crocker continued to support the gallery through her membership on the gallery’s board and through scholarships to students attending art school in the Crocker galleries. Jane Stanford and Margaret Crocker also supported the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament with artworks. Jane Stanford gave the Cathedral an authorized copy of The Sistine Madonna by Raphael, complete with a copy of the original frame and altar. Margaret Crocker donated the Return of the Prodigal Son stained glass window in the north transept and 12 small stained glass windows of the Stations of the Cross from Austria.
Title and date: Portrait of Margaret Crocker, 1877
Artist and dates: Frank M. Pebbles (alias: Francis Marion Pebbles), 1839 – 1928
After recent conservation work, Margaret Crocker’s portrait has become vibrant and “alive” with color. Margaret sits upright in a formal pose in a red/coral velvet chair, its color capturing the viewer’s attention. Her face is the focus of the portrait as it contrasts with the dark background. The white accents of the fan on the table, her white cuffs and the white scarf at her neck all lead the viewer’s eye to her serious mien. The red/coral of the chair is also subtly repeated in her subdued lipstick, her throat, the tip of her visible ear, and the table covering.
The composition is built on a stable triangle shape. Within the general triangle of her form, there is another triangle formed by her hands and face. The picture in the frame on the side table picks up the overall gray tonalities of the painting. This is a painted miniature of her deceased husband, Judge Edwin Crocker. The pin at her neck in the portrait belongs to the Crocker Art Museum. The painting of Margaret Crocker gives the viewer an impression of an affluent, but by no means ostentatious woman, serious and aware of her position in society.
Fred Kleiner, Mamiya. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History. Cengage Learning EMEA, 2008."
Edan Milton Hughes. Artists in California 1786 – 1940. Hughes Publishing Company, 1986.
KVIE, Viewfinder: Arts Alive – Portraits in Time – The Crocker Art Museum. Televised 3/4/09.
www.crockerartmuseum.org “The Crockers” 3/4/09
www.crockerartmuseum.org/exhibitions/pebbles.htm “Francis Marion Pebbles, Portrait of Margaret Crocker, 1880s. Oil on canvas.” 3/4/09.