ObeliskArt History Projects

Imagined Autobiography

— an artist's most pivotal moment

Imagined Autobiography, , Art History Projects


NA-VA.9-12.4: Understand the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
NA-VA.9-12.5: Reflect on & assess the characteristics & merits of an artist’s work
NA-VA.9-12.1: Understand and apply media, techniques and processes

1. Choose and research an artist

Choose an artist whose work is interesting to you. You're going to pretend to be that artist. Imagine that this artist is writing an autobiography, and you are going to document the most interesting chapter of their life. It’s important to do your research. Look into where they lived, who they knew, and what world events took place during their life. Imagine how this artist would have thought and written about their life. It’s ok to embellish or invent details—the idea is to get in your artist’s head. As you draft the autobiography, think about questions like these:

Who did your artist relate to? Family, friends, enemies, governments?
Where did your artist live? How did their location influence their work?
When did your artist work? How did their time shape their perspective?
What were the pivotal events in the life of this artist?
What inspired them or changed the way they work?
Was your artist rich, poor, successful, or unknown at the time?
What was your artist afraid of, what were their ambitions?

2. Choose one of the projects below


Write 2-3 page paper from the point of view of your artist describing the most critical chapter of their lives. How did this time change them as a person, and how did it impact their art? Describe the process of creating any artworks that were created during this time.


Record a 10min video diary of yourself, speaking as the artist. Describe the pivotal point in their life to the viewers. Think about how the artist might have spoken, what they might have worn, and what their mannerisms might have been. Costumes are not required, but could be fun!


Create a new, ‘undiscovered’ artwork by the artist, from this chapter in their life. Don't worry about technical skill—think about what themes your artwork contains and how it relates to the artist’s work before and after. Write a short letter by the artist, describing what the artwork means to them.

Reed Enger, "Imagined Autobiography, an artist's most pivotal moment," in Obelisk Art History, Published February 01, 2020; last modified February 01, 2020, http://arthistoryproject.com/projects/imagined-autobiography/.

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