In this clip, Johanna slips into the 'big' house to look at the portrait paintings on the wall. Johanna lived in a time before photography was widely used. Portrait paintings were luxury items that only the wealthy could afford. Because they were precious, portraits were often put in elaborate frames, helping make the sitter look more important.
- As a class, discuss the concept of portraiture. Focus the discussion around the following questions:
- Why did people want to have their portrait painted?
- Why didn't everyone have their portrait painted?
- What are some similarities and differences between a photograph and a painting?
- Why might an artist have enhanced the way a person looked in a painting?
Discuss with students the importance of portraiture in Johanna's time (1840s) as a way of recording the physical appearance of a person. Students could find images of families from the 1840s using the internet and library resources. To aid their research students could look at artworks on the National Portrait Gallery website at http://www.portrait.gov.au/
- Ask students to research the other ways a person's likeness was recorded, for example, cut-paper silhouettes, engravings, sculpture, drawings and miniature enamelled jewellery.
- Find images of wealthy people from the 1840s or use the characters in this episode. Ask students to create a series of portraits of one of the characters or use an image of their family from the 1840s.
- Ask students to think about what the sitter might have worn, and the type of jewellery and personal effects they would have worn.
- Men often had groomed facial hair, while women had elaborate hairstyles. The personality and status of the sitter was also important. The clothes they wore and the background and props all conveyed what the artists thought of the sitter.
- Students should think about the frame of the portrait, which was oval, square or rectangular. They should also draw an intricate gold frame around their portraits using Australian flora and fauna as distinct motifs.
- Students should write a description of the sitter that includes their name and a short personal history.
Student Activity Sheet H17.1: Painted portraits