Tom ROBERTS<br/>
<em>Shearing the rams</em> 1890 <!-- (recto) --><br />

oil on canvas on composition board<br />
122.4 x 183.3 cm<br />

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne<br />
Felton Bequest, 1932<br />
4654-3<br />



Information for teachers

The following learning activities related to the theme of identity support:

  • The learning focus and standards in Victorian Essential Learning Standards Level 6 for:
    • Discipline-based learning in The Arts, Humanities and English
    • Interdisciplinary learning in Communication, Thinking Processes
    • Physical, Personal and Social Learning in Civics and Citizenship, Personal Learning
  • The areas of study and learning outcomes in Victorian Certificate of Education studies:
    • Art
    • Studio Arts
    • English

Teachers are encouraged to select and adapt the learning activities to suit the specific level and learning requirements of their students.

Discussing and defining identity

  1. Discuss the following questions using key words and ideas to create a mind map around the theme of identity. You may choose to use ICT tools to create the mind map
    • List some different ways that identity is defined/discussed in contemporary society. For example, personal identity, cultural identity, national identity, individual identity, group identity. Discuss how these forms of identity are different or related.
    • What are the factors that shape identity? For example, consider the role of gender, race, age, beliefs, ethnicity, religion, class, history, events, physical environment in shaping identity. Give examples of how these factors have contributed to the identity of individuals or groups that you know.
    • Is identity natural or constructed? Explain.
    • Is identity something that is fixed, or something that changes over time? Explain.
  2. Collect definitions of identity from class members and/or dictionary definitions. Use the text to create a word cloud using wordle. What key words emerge as dominant in the word cloud? Why might these words emerge as important in discussions about and definitions of identity?

Art and identity

  1. View the artworks and read the entries in the NGV Collection Story – Identity. Discuss the following ideas using selected artworks to support your point of view:
    • The visual arts are an expression of identity
    • Artists create identities for cultures and societies
    • The visual arts are a powerful tool for challenging preconceived ideas about identity

3. Further research on identity


Illuminating identity

This activity involves observing, analysing, describing, researching and interpreting an artwork, then making a creative response to the artwork to share with others.

  1. Select an artwork
    View the artworks and read the stories in the NGV Collection Story – Identity. Select the artwork that interests you the most in relation to the theme of identity.
    • Record the details of the artwork (artist, title, date, media, size).
    • What initially caught your interest about this artwork?
  2. Create a sketch
    Observe then record the main structure of the artwork in a quick drawing (15 minutes maximum). Focus on the overall structure or composition of the work, rather than small details. You may wish to annotate your drawing with words or notes to highlight important features.
  1. Describe and analyse the artwork
    • Describe and analyse the artwork
    • Which art elements (for example, colour, line, shape, tone, form and texture) and design principles (for example, focal point, space, rhythm, variety, unity, balance) are most important in the work and what visual effects do they create?
    • What materials and techniques are used to make the artwork? How are they used? List four steps you think the artist may have taken to make this artwork.
  2. Research the artwork
    • Identify and note at least three information sources that help your understanding of this work. Starting points may include:
      NGV Collection Stories
      Books, exhibition catalogues or art journals from your school, or public librarywebsites
    • List five interesting facts that you learned from your research and explain what each has added to your understanding of this work.
  3. Interpret
    • What feelings, moods, ideas or meanings does the artist communicate to you through the artwork?
    • What is it about the artwork that suggests these feelings, moods or ideas?
    • Explain the connection you see between this artwork and the theme of identity.
  4. View the original Visit the National Gallery of Victoria to view the original artwork (check first that it is currently on display). How is the artwork similar/different to how you imagined it from the reproduction?
  5. A creative presentationProduce a short creative presentation about this artwork for your classmates (three minutes maximum). Your presentation should include at least five researched facts about the work. It should also aim to be lively and engaging. It may comprise or include:
    • A role play – for example the artist making the work, an art critic or tour guide explaining the work
    • An art review for the radio or the newspaper, or a poem or narrative, which might be presented dramatically as a reading
    • An art review or documentary-style presentation for TV or online media, which might be presented as a short video
    • A dance or musical performance, or poem inspired by the artwork
    • A visual/audio presentation (for example, PowerPoint, VoiceThread), which includes relevant background information about the artist or artwork
    • A computer game or animation that brings the artwork ‘alive’

Comparative viewpoints

  1. View the artworks and read the entries in the NGV Collection Story – Identity.
    • Identify two artworks that you believe make an interesting comparison in how they express or suggest ideas about identity. (For example, an historical and a contemporary artwork that each express a view about national identity or two contemporary artworks that each express a view about personal identity.)
    • Record the details of each artwork (artist, title, date, media, size).
  2. What ideas does each artwork communicate about identity? How are these ideas communicated in each artwork?
  3. Explain why you believe these artworks make an interesting comparison in how they express or suggest ideas about identity.

A digital, poster or model ‘exhibition’

Collections and exhibitions of artworks play an important role in society in communicating ideas and telling stories. This activity involves creating a digital, poster or model ‘exhibition’ of artworks, using artworks from NGV Collection online, to explore a particular aspect of identity. This activity could be done individually, in pairs or in a group.

  1. An exhibition concept
    View the artworks and read the entries in the NGV Collection Story – Identity.  Based on these artworks, identify a theme related to identity that interests you, or start with one of the themes below as the concept for your exhibition:
    • Environment and identity
    • Culture and identity
    • Identity – personal perspectives
    • Images of a nation
    • Australian characters
  2. Select artworks
    • Make a selection of at least six artworks that you believe tell a story or communicate important ideas related to your exhibition concept. At least four of these artworks must be from the NGV Collection Story – Identity, but you might source artworks from other NGV Collection Stories or NGV Collection online
    • Print or save a digital copy of these artworks for display in your digital, poster or model exhibition. (Remember artworks are protected by copyright law, which means you can use images of artworks for educational/review purposes but not for publication display.)
  3. Create an exhibition
    • Create your digital, poster or model exhibition. A digital exhibition could be a presentation in PowerPoint, an electronic whiteboard display, or some other digital format. Alternatively, you can make a poster or a three-dimensional model to ‘exhibit’ your artworks (see the three-dimensional model used by NGV curators and exhibition designers for planning the exhibition John Brack.
    • When you are creating your digital, poster or model exhibition consider how to most effectively place or group artworks in your exhibition to tell a story and communicate ideas. For example, will the artworks be displayed chronologically or grouped according to themes or ideas?
    • Your digital, poster or model exhibition should include labels for all the artworks listing the artist’s name, title, date, media, and size of the artwork.
    • Your exhibition should have an interesting title, and perhaps a subtitle, to give viewers an idea of what to expect.
  4. Engage viewers with the exhibition story and ideas
    Your exhibition should also include some support material to further engage viewers with the exhibition story or ideas. This could take the form of an exhibition brochure introducing the exhibition, an audio guide, and/or a series of extended labels.
  5. Present and reflect
    • Take the class on a ‘tour’ of your exhibition, explaining your selection and display of artwork and supporting material, and how you believe this engages people with a story and ideas related to identity.
    • What challenges did you encounter in telling a story or communicating ideas related to identity through artworks in an exhibition?