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Express Yourself!

For Grades 3–5

Table of Contents

Featured Work
Activities and Discussion Prior to Showing Students the Painting
Activities and Discussion While Looking at the Painting
Additional Suggested Activities
Related Resources
New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum

Featured Work

Amedeo Modigliani
(Italian, 1884–1920)
La Jeune bonne (The Servant Girl), ca. 1918
Oil on canvas
60 x 24 inches (152.4 x 61 cm)
Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Room of Contemporary Art Fund, 1939
Background Information for Educators


  • Learn about Amedeo Modigliani’s The Servant Girl through observation, discussion, and art activities
  • Identify and practice the ways eyes and body language can show (or hide!) emotions
  • Identify language and images associated with the ways eyes communicate
  • Create works of art that express emotion using color, line, and shape
  • Create narrative writing about the character of the servant girl (see Additional Suggested Activities #3 and #4)
  • Learn about the differences between servants and slaves (see Additional Suggested Activity #5)


  1. Before you discuss the painting with the class, use the worksheet as a homework assignment. Have the students take home their copies of the painting and the worksheet. In class the next day, have them share their family's observations and questions.
  2. Discuss emotions and the different ways in which they are expressed. A fun activity is to have students take turns covering their faces and try to express an emotion using only body language. Ask the other students to guess which emotion is being acted out.
  3. Use the reproduction to look at Modigliani's painting together. Ask your students to stand in the pose of the girl. Make sure everything is exact, including the position of the feet, hands, and head. Ask them how, based on her body language, they think she might feel.
  4. Discuss the colors the artist used for the painting. Do they add to the mood? What if Modigliani had painted her dress red and her apron yellow? Would that change the mood of the painting?
  5. After this discussion, have the students try to answer the questions that their families asked in #5 on the worksheet. You could also make a simple newsletter about the answers to send home with the students.


  1. One of the first things that many students notice about The Servant Girl is her blank eyes. How does the way the artist painted them reflect her position in the world and her role in life?
  2. Remind students of the activity in which they expressed emotions with their bodies. Repeat the activity, but this time have them stand perfectly still and express themselves only with their faces. Ask the rest of the class to guess the emotion! Then, ask them to use only their eyes!
  3. Discuss phrases that have to do with eyes and what the students think they might mean. (For example, "Look me in the eye when I'm talking to you?") How many can your students think of?
  4. The class has previously discussed the use of color in Modigliani's work. Discuss with the class how colors are used in our society. What do they associate with the color red (stop signs, warning signs, fire engines, etc.)? What do they think of when they see yellow? Talk about color phrases: "green with envy," someone feeling "blue," or the music called "the blues," "seeing red," and so on.
  5. Give the students paper and crayons or markers. Ask them to choose an emotion and express it only with colors. Then have them choose a second emotion and represent it only with lines. Have the rest of the class guess which emotions they are representing. (REMEMBER: color interpretation is a very personal thing! Anything is correct!)

Additional Suggested Activities

  1. The unusual quality of the servant girl’s eyes is almost always the first thing people notice about this painting. Eye contact is a very important aspect of communication in human relationships. Think about expressions that relate to the eyes—such as “keep your eyes peeled,” or “for your eyes only.” Collect as many as you can and analyze each one through an illustration or a written paragraph. 
  2. Bring in the comic section of the newspaper each day for a week. Choose a comic strip character and copy the different expressions in the eyes of that character throughout the week. Make a poster of just the eyes, labeling each set of eyes with the emotion you think is expressed. 
  3. Pretend you are the owner of a large house with many servants. Choose one type of servant (cook, maid, butler, gardener, stable hand, etc.) and make a schedule for that person for the day. 
  4. Write a biography of Modigliani’s servant girl.
  5. Discuss the similarities and differences between a servant and a slave.


Activity Sheet (PDF)



  • Audio for Younger Students

  • Audio for High School Students

  • Audio Description