Our Project in the Media

Humanities, November/December 2007, Volume 28/Number 6
Teaching Rembrant: Why introduce children to masterpieces?
Joseph M. Piro

Art Education, Vol. 54, No. 3, InterDisciplinary (May, 2001), pp. 12-17
The Rembrandt Teaching Project: Promoting Multiple Literacies in Teaching and Learning
Joseph M. Piro
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New York Daily News

Art as history class
Monday, June 20th, 2005

Rembrandt is not just for art history students anymore.

The Dutch master's paintings, etchings and drawings are also a great way to teach social studies, history and technology, said Joseph Piro, an education professor at Long Island University's C.W. Post campus in Brookville.

Officials at the National Endowment for the Humanities apparently agreed, awarding Piro a $185,000 grant to create a Web site of multidisciplinary lesson plans, inspired by 25 Rembrandt works, for middle and high school teachers.

“Art tells wonderful stories, and kids love to be told stories,” Piro said. “Rembrandt's works are a great way to tell stories about history, about culture, about civilization.”

Piro and his team have started work already on picking the 25 works - all of which can be found in American museums.

“People tend to think of Rembrandt as a strictly European artist, but he has rather a robust presence in the U.S., especially in the New York area,” Piro said.

“Hay Barn,” Rembrandt's 1636 etching, is even closer - in the Hillwood Art Museum on the C.W. Post campus.

“We'll be taking a look at themes, like power and change and culture, the timeless themes we study in social studies, and taking a look at Rembrandt's work, and how they address these themes,” Piro said.

One painting that likely will be included in the project is Rembrandt's 1631 portrait of wealthy German fur trader Nicolaes Ruts, which hangs in the Frick Collection in Manhattan.

For an art history class, this painting provides a great example of Rembrandt's early work - with its dramatic contrasts in light and shadow, and its varied textures of fur and fabrics.

The painting also gives a glimpse into the past, Piro said.

“There are clues in the painting,” he said. “The subject is draped in fur, alluding to the fact that he was a fur trader. He's holding a piece of paper, with details about trading. The clothing and details reflect his status.”

Piro, along with his team of 15, expects to complete the research, write up the lesson plans and have the Web site up and running by 2007.