Week 8 – Putting Yourself in Someone Else's Shoes (family special)
Updated: May 12, 2020
Theme of the week: Empathy
More and more families are participating in the Quarantined Museum community exhibition project. We have even heard from families who integrated the concept to their home schooling. In response, we would like to offer them one article per week intended for children aged 7 to 12. Of course, we recommend that families read it together to help each other and to discuss the themes!
There are no right or wrong answers. The whole family is invited to participate and discuss. You have the right to disagree, but you have to explain your point of view and listen to each other.
Let's start by thinking together about the following topics:
• Do you know what empathy is?
• Have you ever felt empathy? If so, in what circumstances?
• Can art help you recognize other people's emotions?
• Can art help you develop empathy?
• Can a work of art represent an emotion? Does it have to be figurative to do so?
• Can art make you feel emotions?
Empathy: Empathy means putting yourself in someone else's shoes to understand how they feel. For example, through empathy, you might be able to understand that the words you say and the actions you take can sometimes hurt or comfort others.
Figurative art: This is when the artist represents an object that you recognize and can easily identify (for example, a car, a unicorn, a ball, etc.).
Let's look at the following work:
Unknown artist, The Farewell of Louis XVI, 1899
Let's learn about the work and the artist
• We don't know who the artist is.
• However, it is known that he copied a work by the artist Mather Brown (1761-1831), who himself was inspired by an engraving by Peltro William Tomkins (1760-1840) published in London on January 1, 1795.
• In short, it is a copy of a copy!
• Rest assured, this copy was probably not made with the intention of fooling anyone, but rather to allow this unknown artist to practice and learn good painting techniques.
• This work represents the King of France, Louis XVI, with his family on January 20, 1793.
• He was sentenced to death.
• He gathered his wife, the Queen Marie-Antoinette, his son, the Dauphin Louis, his daughter, Madame Royale, and other relatives and family members to break the news and bid them farewell.
• They are aware that this is the last time they will be reunited as a family and will be able to talk and touch each other.
• They realize that they will not see Louis XVI again, but also that their lives have changed: the French people no longer wants to be ruled by a queen or a king. It is the end of the monarchy.
Dauphin: This is the title beared by the eldest son of the King of France, who is normally destined to become king upon his father's death.
Monarchy: This is when a king or queen rules a country and makes all the decisions related to its governance.
Consider the following details:
Look at all the characters:
• Can you identify the king, the queen, the dolphin and the soldiers?
For example, the queen is wearing a yellow dress.
• What does each of the characters do?
For example: The queen is raising one arm and pulling her hair with the other. She is looking up.
• Why do they strike these poses?
For example: the queen seems to be imploring God, as she looks up and reaches for the sky. The gesture of pulling her hair shows tension or loss of control.
• Are you able to recreate their posture and facial expressions?
• Can you tell how the king, queen, dolphin and soldiers feel? Why do these characters feel these emotions?
For example: I think the queen feels despair and helplessness because she is losing her husband, she will never see him again and she cannot change the situation. She might be angry because she loses her queenly status and privileges. Marie-Antoinette must also be worried and fearful for her safety and that of her children because she does not know what awaits them without the protection of the king.
Look at the environment:
• Where do you think the characters are located?
• What are the visual clues that allow you to say this?
• If they were in a different environment, would your interpretation of the scene and the emotions of the characters be different?
Put on the shoes:
• If you imagine yourself in the place of each of the characters (the king, queen, dolphin and soldiers), how would you feel?
• What would you say to the other characters in this situation if you were:
the king, the queen, the dolphin, the soldiers...
• What about you? Have you ever felt the same emotions in other circumstances?
Implore: Begging or asking a favor.
Let's make some connections:
• Through his artwork the artist:
• Tells a story;
• Represents each character with a posture and an expression associated with an emotion;
• Depicts the king as a martyr by giving a stern and harsh look on the soldiers’ faces and placing the king in the position of a good father.
• This brings us to:
• Identify and understand the emotions of the characters;
• Imagining what the characters might say to each other;
• Entering into the scene, especially when we start to think about the characters and their experiences;
• Understanding that the scene is dramatic, even if we don't know the story of Louis XVI.
Martyr: A person who is misunderstood and mistreated for a cause that he or she stands for.
Let's have fun:
• Think of an emotion.
• What posture will represent it?
• What are facial expressions will you make?
• You can practice in front of a mirror.
• Take a picture of yourself as you mime the chosen emotion in front of a white or pale wall;
• Apply a black and white filter to your picture;
• Print your picture on card stock;
• Using felt-tip pen, acrylic paint or pastels, add details.
• Which colours best match your emotion?
• What textures might make you think of your emotion?
• What shapes would translate your emotion?
• You can have fun representing all kinds of emotions.
• Everyone in the family can participate! You can even organize a game where you try to recognize each other's emotions!
• Every day you can hang the emotion you are experiencing on your bedroom door. Your family will certainly be able to recognize it and perhaps understand you better.
So, can you tell me:
Now that you've read, observed, learned and explored, have you changed your mind? Or can you complete your reflection from earlier?
• Can a work of art help you recognize emotions, especially through the posture and facial expressions of the characters?
• When you look at a work of art and ask yourself about the characters’ feelings, can it help you develop empathy?
• Can art make you feel emotions?
• Can you create an artwork that expresses an emotion, but without a character, face or expression? You could use only colour, textures and shapes...
• Don't forget to send your creation to email@example.com.
This activity was prepared by Ariane Cardinal, Curator of Education at the Musée d'art de Joliette.
Follow the indications and get your art on this platform.