This blog presents visual information in pedagogical contexts; considering how information is presented in visual form and how we can learn from these presentations.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

History paintings online: Visual presentation and reading the past

An amazing array of visual artistic content is available on the Web. in this post I look at online representations of Benjamin West's paintings, specifically his history paintings.

A good starting place is Wikimedia Common. This resource includes copyright and royalty free images. An entry on Benjamin West includes (as of this posting) 25 images of his work.

Included in the collection is West's famous 1781 unfinished painting "American Commissioners of the Preliminary Peace Agreement with Great Britain." Wikimedia Commons also include a category titled History Painting with numerous additional paintings in the genre.

A Google Image search will also yield a nice array of images from a search on Benjamin West. A relatively new feature in Google Images also allows you to search for similar images. This may be helpful if you are trying to find an appropriately sized or shaped image or if you want variations on an image theme.

Here are four images that came up in a Google similar images search on this initial image

The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History from the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a wide range of essays with accompanying images on a wide range of art topics. An essay on Benjamin West titled Students of Benjamin West (1738–1820) explores the influence of West on American art.

Luna Commons is an online browser that provides access to thousands of art images. A search on Benjamin West yields 27 relevant images of paintings. What makes the resources so valuable are a collection of tools that enable users to export the images in a number of ways including as an embeddable widget (using iframes, unfortunately not supported by Blogger) as well as one click download of the images and export to Powerpoint (embedded using SlideShare below).

This graphic, published May 22, 2009 in the Wall Street Journal to accompany a story titled Changing the Art on the White House Walls, illustrates the history of art in the White House

For more on art, portraits, and presidents see my post of Capturing Presidential History.


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John Lee is an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education at North Carolina State University. His scholarship is focused on pedagogies of digital history. This work includes the design and implementation of online resources that extend the boundaries of history through online networks and the digitization of historical source material. In addition to this focus on digital history, John is also interested in the historical literacies needed to negotiate online historical resources and visual representations of historical information. For more please see

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