Lesson Preview In this lesson, students will contrast and compare a traditional group portrait painted by Rembrandt with a more innovative Rembrandt portrait.


New York State Learning Standards for the Arts

Understanding the cultural dimensions and contributions of the arts

New York City Language Arts Performance Standards

E2b- produce a response to literature (using art instead of literature as the stimulus) advancing a judgment that is interpretive, analytic, evaluative, or reflective and supporting a judgment trough references to other works, authors, or nonprint media, references to personal knowledge

Grades Upper Elementary and Intermediate Levels

Subjects Language Arts, Social Studies, Art

Materials general drawing supplies


Instruction Review the definition of a portrait and compare one portrait to a group portrait. Observe a group portrait such as the Sampling Officials of the Amsterdam Drapers Guild.

Display the class photo done by a school photographer.and The Night Watch, side by side. Have the class determine similarities and differences. Ask: What makes Rembrandt’s painting more interesting to look at?

Give the art historical background of The Night Watch using various class library books and learning materials.





Sampling Officials of the Amsterdam Drapers Guild



Who do you think the people in the painting could be?

Describe your thoughts about the painting.

Explain why some people in the painting are painted more brightly while some are painted darker.

State why the people in the work are dressed the way they are.

Describe some of the things they are holding in their hands and how you imagine they could be used.

Does this painting seem to be still or to move? Why?

Compare and contrast the colors. What are the most significant colors in the painting? Why do you think Rembrandt chose these colors?

Describe where the light comes from and where it goes.

Do you think this painting was painted at night? Why?


After the class has answered these questions, provide more background information concerning the portrait’s commission, and what was happening historically in the Netherlands at the time.

Talk about the idea of a city militia and why there was a need for it. Discuss some of then symbolism in the picture and what it represents.

Have students compose a short paragraph about their observations on the Night Watch and enter it into a reflection journal. Give the following organizing question: What makes this portrait unique when compared to other portraits? Have the students make their own sketches of the painting.

Extensions Divide the class into groups of about six. Let each student pretend they are Rembrandt and organize the group into positions showing movement. Let each student use a camera to take picture of the group. Have students write narrative procedure about what they are doing. Display any finished products.

Assessments Have the class discuss the portraits they have created in relation to Rembrandt’s work. Determine if the students’ work displays the elements of both movement and light.

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