History and Memory Lesson 5: The Artist Interprets Sources

Andy Warhol's Jackie and Flash Series
Andy Warhol, Flash-November 22, 1963, 1968, ©AWF

Students learn how artists interpret and use source material to communicate about current events and politics, like historians, but with different results. Andy Warhol’s Jackie and Flash Series are used as examples for class discussion. Students observe and discuss the selection of images, editing, scale, printing and presentation in order to understand intentions behind the artwork.

Suggested Time Frame:

Introduction: 5 minutes
View and Discuss Jackie: 20 minutes
Independent Writing: 20 minutes
View and Discuss Flash: 20 minutes
Independent Writing: 20 minutes
Review of Work and Final Analysis: 30 minutes

Total Time: 2-3 class periods 


  • Students will identify subject matter, source material and the method and techniques employed by Warhol in two artworks
  • Students will interpret meanings of artworks based upon visual clues
  • Students will analyze Warhol’s use of source materials in the creation of artworks based upon formal criteria: color, scale, repetition
  • Students will compare and contrast interpretations of artworks
  • Students will assess the impact of source materials on the interpreted meaning of artworks
Andy Warhol, Jackie, 1964 ©AWF 
Andy Warhol, Jackie, 1964 ©AWF 

Handouts and Materials:

The following handouts are
included in the Lesson PDF:

Sources and Warhol’s Jackie Series Sources and Warhol’s Flash Series 
ProjectorWriting materials 
Source material from which Warhol cropped Jackie’s face for his portrait series

Source material from which Warhol cropped Jackie’s face for his portrait series


  1. Introduce and discuss the role of the artist as an interpreter of source material.
  2. The Artist: 

    Interprets data, makes choices, organizes and creates something unique.

    Represents the world or something imagined or ideas, including both real and imagined qualities.

    Filters history, current events and cultural and political occurrences for ideas.

    Answers questions s/he is interested in and creates something new.

    Conveys something that s/he wants to be valued and remembered.

    Reflects, critiques and/or entertains society.

  3. Compare and contrast artist with historian in Lesson 4.
  4. Print out color copies of Andy Warhol’s Jackie and Flash series, or project these digital files for students to view during class discussion. Use the questions about each artwork on the handouts to guide class discussion.
Andy Warhol, Jackie, 1964 ©AWF 
Andy Warhol, Jackie, 1964 ©AWF 

Section I. View and discuss the Jackie Series

  1. Use visual clues in the images to inform your answers to questions on the handout.
  2. Identify the artist’s source materials and determine whether they are primary or secondary sources.
  3. While looking at the sources and the artwork continue to analyze the artist’s:
  4. - Selection of images

    - Editing

    - Use of scale

    - Use of printing

    - Final presentation

  5. Write your own interpretation of the artwork. It should include what you think the artwork means and an explanation of how the artist achieved this communication.
  6. Read the interpretation of Patricia Pugh Mitchell, Director, Kuumba Trust: 

    I am immediately transported back to that dreadful day in Dallas when it all fell apart, and the curtains closed on the final act of Camelot. I was 10 years old when Jack Kennedy was assassinated. Those from my era may recollect the set of 77 collectible photo cards of the JFK family. My mother had meticulously saved anything and everything about Jack and Jackie, so I asked her to pull out the cards. She knew exactly where to go—the next day she placed the cards in my hand. My mom wore hats and cute suits just like Jackie—although she would never admit it. When I looked at my mother dressed for church—she was a mirror image of Jackie with a tan.

  8. Compare and contrast your interpretations with that of Ms. Pugh Mitchell.
Andy Warhol, Flash-November 22, 1963, 1968, four of eleven screenprints in portfolio, ©AWF
Andy Warhol, Flash-November 22, 1963, 1968, four of eleven screenprints in portfolio, ©AWF

Section II. View and discuss the Flash Series.

  1. Answer the questions on the Flash handout based upon visual clues in the images.
  2. Identify Warhol’s sources for Flash, basing answers on what is visible in the artwork.
  3. Evaluate the accuracy of your answers. Warhol’s sources include:
  4. Pictures of Lee Harvey Oswald, an advertisement for the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, a photograph of the Book Depository’s sixth floor window, the presidential seal, press clippings of Jackie during the motorcade, photographs of John F. Kennedy taken from the television screen, news wire bulletins fabricated by the poet Phillip Greer to reconstruct the AP wire bulletins of that day and a picture of a movie clapboard.

  5. Identify whether these sources are primary or secondary.
  6. While looking at the artwork, analyze the artist’s:
  7. - Selection of images

    - Editing

    - Use of scale

    - Use of printing

    - Final presentation

  8. Compare and contrast the answers for the Flash series with answers for the Jackie series. Discuss whether having the source material along with the artwork aids in understanding—explain why or why not.
  9. Write your interpretation of the Flash series.
  10. Review the interpretations of Flash and Jackie in class.

Warhol Education Rubrics

Click the Warhol Rubric headers below to reveal associated rubrics to which this lesson applies.

Critical Thinking
Creative Process
Historical Context