Teaching Ideas

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • Jacob Lawrence repeats several colors throughout this painting. Look, for instance, at areas where red or yellow hues appear. What other colors do you see repeated? How do Lawrence’s color choices impact the mood of the painting? How does the artist's use of color help navigate your eyes around the canvas?

  • The title of this painting is _The Visitors. _Who are the visitors? Look for the individual figures and figures in pairs. Imagine standing in the shoes of one of these figures. What emotions might you be feeling?

  • Does this painting tell a story? If so, what story does it tell? If not, what more would you need to know to understand the events taking place?

  • What makes a painting beautiful? Lawrence once said, “If at times my productions don’t express the conventionally beautiful, there is always an effort to express the universal beauty of Man’s continuous struggle to lift his social position and to add dimension to his spiritual being.” What might he mean by this?

  • What does someone mean when they use the phrase “the cycle of life and death?” What ideas about the cycle of life and death are expressed in The Visitors?

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • Compare The Visitors with Soul Three (2004.11) by Romare Bearden. What is the subject matter and mood of each work of art? If the characters in each painting were to meet, what might they say to each other?

  • Look carefully at each person or small group of people in this painting. What is each person doing? Write a brief monologue for each person that reveals his/her thoughts and emotions. Pay special attention to the five senses and imagine the full sensory effect of the experience within each person’s monologue.

  • Write a brief one-act scene in which you interact with one of the figures in this painting. What would you say to someone who is experiencing the pain, grief, or confusion of the figures in this painting? Select two classmates as your actors and direct their performance of the scene.

  • During the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s Harlem was rich with culture. Research a poet, musician, or painter from the Harlem Renaissance and compare his or her work to The Visitors.

  • Jacob Lawrence often investigated a particular subject through a series of paintings. Make a series of five or more drawings that illustrate important events in your family life and history. Events might include meal times, Sunday mornings, graduations, birthdays, weddings, or vacations. Lawrence included a range of emotions and reactions in his characters, and he often showed this through the body language and gestures of figures in his paintings. Investigate the body language and gestures in The Visitors and remember to include these important details in your drawings.

  • Storytelling is one of the ways people share their memories, experiences, and dreams. By conjuring up events, the storyteller re-creates episodes that can spark the imagination of others. Choose one of the pictures you made in the previous activity. Write and then tell the story of that picture to your classmates.