This audio series offers entertaining, informative discussions about the arts and events at the National Gallery of Art. These podcasts give access to special Gallery talks by well-known artists, authors, curators, and historians. Included in this podcast listing are established series: The Diamonstein-Spielvogel Lecture Series, The Sydney J. Freedberg Lecture in Italian Art, Elson Lecture Series, A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, Conversationricans with Artists Series, Conversations with Collectors Series, and Wyeth Lectures in Ame Art Series. Download the programs, then visit us on the National Mall or at www.nga.gov, where you can explore many of the works of art mentioned. New podcasts are released every Tuesday.
Matthew Shindell, curator of planetary science, National Air and Space Museum The year 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. Photography played a significant role both in preparing for the mission and in shaping the cultural consciousness of the event. By the Light of the Silvery Moon: A Century of Lunar Photographs features works ranging in date from the 19th century to the “space-age” 1960s. The event Photographing the Moon, held on October 3, 2019, at the National Gallery of Art, celebrated this exhibition by inviting three curators from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum to give talks on the intertwined histories of photography and space exploration. In the third talk, Matthew Shindell described the development and impact of the field of photogeology, which provided early photography of the earth and moon from airplanes and eventually allowed for mapping and selecting landing sites for human missions to the moon.
C. D. Dickerson III, curator and head of sculpture and decorative arts, National Gallery of Art Alonso Berruguete, active on the Iberian Peninsula during the first half of the 16th century, initially trained as a painter before becoming known for his painted sculptures in wood. Alonso Berruguete: First Sculptor of Renaissance Spain is the first major exhibition held outside Spain to celebrate Berruguete’s expressive art. The exhibition presents more than 40 works from across the artist’s career, including early paintings and the largest group of his drawings ever to be assembled, along with an unprecedented number of sculptures. These works range from single figures to large sections of multistory altarpieces, or retablos, that combine reliefs, statues, paintings, and architectural details. In this lecture, delivered on October 14, 2019, curator C. D. Dickerson III provides an overview to this exhibition of work by Berruguete, the preeminent sculptor of Renaissance Spain.
Kara Fiedorek Felt, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art, Washington Held on November 24, 2019, in conjunction with the exhibition The Eye of the Sun: Nineteenth-Century Photographs from the National Gallery of Art, the lecture Before the Kodak Girl explores the many roles that women played in nineteenth-century photography. From working in major studios to producing photographs as professionals and amateurs, women were deeply involved in the medium’s first half-century, though histories and collections of photography tend to emphasize only a few extraordinary examples. Kara Felt illustrates the diverse contributions of women—highlighting a selection of known and relatively unknown figures—while discussing the factors enabling, and limiting, their advancement. Ultimately, the lecture illuminates the emergence of photography as a central interest of the modern woman in the 1890s, when Eastman Kodak launched a highly successful campaign to sell its products through imagery of the independent, camera-toting “Kodak Girl.”
USCO, also known as the Company of US or US Company, was a group of artists, poets, filmmakers, engineers, and composers who formed a multimedia collective in 1963. Two of its cofounders—Michael Callahan (b. 1944), an electronics innovator and president of Museum Technology Source, and Gerd Stern (b. 1928), a poet, media artist, and president of Intermedia Foundation—reflect on their lives and the creation of USCO. Callahan and Stern discuss their artistic journeys and initial collaborations, which led to the formation of this innovative and technologically prescient multimedia collective. They provide insight into USCO’s influences and activities during the 1960s. Archival footage and behind-the-scenes access to their visit to the National Gallery of Art in preparation for their performance on March 3, 2019, provide a greater context for understanding USCO’s collaborative spirit, rich history, and art practice. This video opens with Michael Callahan and Gerd Stern, seated side by side, shown from about the waist up. In the first few minutes, black-and-white and color photographs from previous points in their lives are interspersed with interview footage. Other footage includes 1966 films of USCO and excerpts from multimedia works entitled Verbal American Landscape and From Hubbub to We Are All One, reprised and performed at the National Gallery of Art in 2019. Verbal American Landscape focuses on signs—street signs, commercial signs, those on buildings, construction and warning signs. The sign images are projected onto a large screen with the use of three slide projectors in a darkened auditorium, and the projected images overlap at the edges. Each image is projected for a few moments before it is replaced by others, sometimes after flickering several times. For instance, at one point, the image to the left shows a sign saying “Hacker” against a blue-gray background, probably a building facade. The sign at center says, “Danger Blasting Area Turn Off” before it is cut off along the bottom edge, so that the final words are lost. The words “Danger” and “Turn Off” are written in crimson; “Blasting Area” is written in pale orange, all against a black background. The sign to the right says, “Construction Pass at Your Own Risk” in red letters against a mustard-yellow background. The lettering on all three signs features large display type of block capital letters. After a moment, these signs flash off the screen and are replaced with others, saying “Do not enter,” “Wrong way,” “Dead end,” “Sweet Temptation,” “Pull,” “Wait,” “Save,” “Love,” and other words and phrases, which are sometimes cut off or incomplete. Some signs include symbols or emblems, such as a heart or neon cowboy. From Hubbub to We Are All One includes projected images of magazine covers, landscape photographs, and snapshots of individuals and groups of people. Footage near the end of the video shows preparations for the performance at the Gallery in a large auditorium. At the front of the auditorium, a long table is laid out with a variety of apparatuses used during the performance, including four carousel slide projectors, a small sound mixer, CDs and a CD player, and the original mixed electromechanical and electronic device Callahan designed and built during the 1960s.
Marc Fumaroli (professor emeritus at the Collège de France and former Edmond J. Safra Visiting Professor at the National Gallery of Art) examines four landscape paintings by Jean Honoré Fragonard from the period 1775/1780: A Game of Hot Cockles, Blindman’s Buff, The Swing, and A Game of Horse and Rider. In contrast to the pleasure-seeking pursuits usually identified in these garden scenes, Fumaroli sees fearful apprehension in Fragonard’s ambiguous depiction of natural settings and human expressions.
Gabriele Finaldi, director, National Gallery, London In his lecture, presented on December 8, 2019, Gabriele Finaldi of the National Gallery, London, discusses Mantegna's particular universe as constructed in stone: carved, cut, polished, and sometimes invented. In his compelling imaginarium, the ancient world is a severe construct of marble, alabaster, and porphyry. He juxtaposes sculpted stone with flesh, creating potent dualities of ancient and modern, eternal and transient, dead and alive. In the skies of his paintings, clouds take on mysterious forms, sometimes rocklike, that want to insinuate themselves into his narratives. This lecture explores how the realms of nature, art, and antiquity are fused into the unique vision of Mantegna's Renaissance world.
Zach Feldman, contractor, department of film programs, National Gallery of Art The notion of didactic art has been both lauded by the ancient Greeks as a powerful educational technique and dismissed by 19th-century Romantics as overburdened with facticity and morality. In recent decades, however, didactic films and videos have been utilized, in both satire and earnest, within art spaces as a subversive tool to acutely observe and diagnose the conditions of contemporary life. In this lecture, as part of the Works in Progress series, on September 9, 2019, Zach Feldman considers this tool in select nonfiction instructional videos by filmmakers and artists Harun Farocki and Hito Steyerl.
Antoinette Le Normand-Romain (former director of the Institut national d’histoire de l’art and former Edmond J. Safra Visiting Professor at the National Gallery of Art) discusses Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Walking Man (1903). Le Normand-Romain describes a history of The Walking Man that reveals much about Rodin’s methods, his deep appreciation of antiquity, and the significance of his art in the evolution of modern sculpture.
David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art Italian sculpture of the 15th century in Florence and Tuscany, departed from the elegant, decorative style of the earlier Gothic period to reflect a greater admiration for, and understanding of, the strength and structure of the human body. In this respect, Renaissance sculptors emulated the ideals of the ancient Greeks and Romans when depicting contemporary or Christian subjects. Sculptors like Donatello, Desiderio da Settignano, Mino da Fiesole, Bernardo and Antonio Rossellino, Luca and Andrea della Robbia, Jacopo della Quercia, and Verrocchio, revived a classical interest in the human body depicted in full-length figures demonstrating naturalism and ease of movement. Relief sculptures explored new effects of light and atmosphere. Displaying a variety of materials including marble, bronze, wood, terracotta, and ceramic; and a range of processes from carving to modeling to casting, 15th-century Florentine sculpture served a variety of secular and religious purposes. It also became a model for the many talented Italian sculptors to follow, most notably the young Michelangelo. In this lecture presented on October 22, 2019, at the National Gallery of Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the rich holdings of 15th-century Florentine and Tuscan sculpture in the Gallery’s permanent collection.
Daniel Boomhower, director of the research library, Dumbarton Oaks; Sir Peter Crane, president, Oak Spring Garden Foundation; Nancy E. Gwinn, director, Smithsonian Libraries; Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress; Roger Lawson, executive librarian, National Gallery of Art; David Leonard, president, Boston Public Library; E. C. Schroeder, director, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library; Michael Witmore, director, Folger Shakespeare Library; moderated by Kaywin Feldman, director, National Gallery of Art On September 25, 2019, the National Gallery of Art hosted eight library leaders from major cultural heritage institutions to discuss how libraries have incorporated innovative thinking to meet traditional challenges and seize new opportunities for audience engagement. This special program was held in conjunction with the fall 2019 meeting of the National Gallery of Art Trustees’ Council and in honor of outgoing Gallery president, Frederick W. Beinecke.
Dianne Stephens, senior educator, National Gallery of Art The 2019 Summer Sunday Lecture Series, Celebrating the Old Master Collections of the National Gallery of Art, takes a closer look at the many treasures housed in the Gallery’s permanent collection. On August 11, Dianne Stephens, a senior educator at the National Gallery of Art, discusses masterpieces of American furniture from the Kaufman Collection, 1700–1830. These magnificent objects were permanently installed at the National Gallery of Art in October 2012 as a promised gift of the collection formed over five decades by Linda H. Kaufman and the late George M. Kaufman, which includes some of the finest and most elegant examples of American furniture produced in colonial and post-revolutionary America. The Kaufman Collection a significant addition to the decorative arts at the National Gallery of Art and in Washington, and these important pieces of furniture complement and enrich the great American achievements in painting and sculpture in the Gallery’s permanent collection.
Heidi Applegate, guest lecturer The 2019 Summer Sunday Lecture Series takes a closer look at the many treasures housed in the Gallery’s permanent collection. Works by Italian, French, Dutch, and American artists are featured in this visual tour. New insights and surprising discoveries await, featuring Gallery favorites and recently acquired works. In this fourth lecture in the series, presented on August 4, 2019 guest lecturer Heidi Applegate discusses the Gallery’s collection of American paintings. The American collection has grown from 10 paintings when the West Building opened in 1941 to become the largest of the paintings departments in the museum. Dr. Heidi Applegate gives an overview of how the collection has been assembled over the past seven decades, underscoring the transformative addition in 2014 of paintings from the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Oliver Lee Jackson, artist, in conversation with Harry Cooper, senior curator and head of modern art, National Gallery of Art American painter, printmaker, and sculptor Oliver Lee Jackson (b. 1935) has created a complex body of work which masterfully weaves together visual influences ranging from the Renaissance to modernism with principles of rhythm and improvisation drawn from his study of African cultures and American jazz. Held on September 15, 2019, this conversation between the artist and Harry Cooper, senior curator and head of modern art, marked the last day of the exhibition Oliver Lee Jackson: Recent Paintings. The exhibition presented some 25 paintings created over the past 15 years, many of which were seen publicly for the first time. Jackson’s often large-scale paintings blend figural elements of bodies pointing, kneeling, drawing, and playing instruments with colorful abstract compositions and vigorously worked surfaces. Each painting creates a space and world of its own, captivating viewers and challenging them to spend time with the mesmerizing works.
David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art The 2019 Summer Sunday Lecture Series focuses on the outstanding collections of old master paintings in the National Gallery of Art, and also includes a discussion of the extraordinary American furniture from the Kaufman Collection, currently on view on the ground floor of the West Building. Over the decades, appreciation of French eighteenth-century art has fluctuated between preference for the alluring decorative canvases of rococo artists such as François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard to admiration for the sober neoclassicism championed by Jacques-Louis David and his pupils. In this final lecture in the series, presented on August 25, David Gariff, senior lecturer, surveys the history of French art in the eighteenth century from the time of Louis XIV to the French Revolution. In addition to works by Boucher, Fragonard, and David, scenes of daily life by Antoine Watteau, Jean-Siméon Chardin, and Jean-Baptiste Greuze are discussed.
Sophie Lynford, doctoral candidate in the history of art, Yale University; Diane Waggoner, curator of 19th-century photographs, National Gallery of Art In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Ruskin (1819–1900), the most influential art critic of the Victorian era, the Gallery presents The American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists, an exhibition of some 90 artworks created by American artists who were profoundly influenced by Ruskin’s call for a revolutionary change in the practice of art. A group of artists, architects, scientists, critics, and collectors sympathetic to Ruskin’s ideas formed the Association for the Advancement of Truth in Art, which sought reform not only in artistic practices, but also in the broader political arena. In a paired lecture delivered at the National Gallery of Art on June 16, 2019, Sophie Lynford and Diane Waggoner described further what Lynford has called the American Pre-Raphaelites’ “comprehensive, multipronged agenda.” By looking beyond painting to the group’s ideas about architecture and photography, Lynford and Waggoner more fully illustrated the philosophy of the American Pre-Raphaelites, whose search for truth had both pictorial and moral stakes.
Ken Burns, filmmaker, in conversation with David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, trustee of the National Gallery of Art, and chairman of the Smithsonian Institution In documentaries such as The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, and The West, filmmaker Ken Burns has spent 40 years investigating American history and culture. His films tell the American story not only in terms of victories and major historical flashpoints, but also through the lives of individuals and relationships. Burns’s films have been honored with dozens of major awards, including 16 Emmy Awards, 2 Grammy Awards, and 2 Oscar nominations; in September 2008, he was honored by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The National Gallery of Art, in collaboration with the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies (FAPE), hosted Burns for a conversation with David Rubenstein on April 28, 2019.
David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. The First World War, known as the Great War, was also the first modern war, claiming millions of lives, in part, by newly invented weapons such as the machine gun, tank, aircraft, and poison gas. The arts of the period present a portrait of the terrible price paid by humanity—the carnage and suffering caused by the war were documented in paintings, sculptures, novels, memoirs, and poems produced both during, and immediately after, the struggle. In this presentation on March 27, 2019, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the responses of artists and writers to the trauma of the First World War, which transcended national boundaries. Paintings, sculptures, and prints by Otto Dix, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Käthe Kollwitz, Fernand Léger, John Singer Sargent, and Natalija Goncharova; poems by Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, and Anna Akhmatova; and memoirs and novels by Ernest Hemingway, Erich Maria Remarque, and Robert Graves are discussed against the backdrop of “the war to end all wars.”
John Hobson, staff assistant, department of special projects, National Gallery of Art The study of Slovene photography has remained intertwined with the medium’s specific relation to pan-Yugoslavian artistic development, generally focusing on the period between 1945 and 1991. In celebration of the National Day of Slovenia, John Hobson expands the current understanding of the development of photography in the Slovene region, breaking from the Yugocentric narrative to present his research on the breadth and complexity of twentieth-century photography created by Slovenians. In this lecture at the National Gallery of Art on June 3, 2019, Hobson discusses the creation of photographic conventions and traditions, as well as transgressions against them, across the twentieth century.
Jeffreen M. Hayes, executive director, Threewalls An outstanding sculptor associated with the intellectual and cultural awakening known as the Harlem Renaissance, Augusta Savage (1892-1962) overcame poverty, racism, and sexual discrimination in pursuit of her goals. Creating new visions of black identity in her work, she was also an activist, campaigning for equal rights for African Americans in the arts. The traveling exhibition Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman and its accompanying catalog is the first to reassess Savage’s contributions to art and cultural history in light of 21st-century attention to the concept of the artist-activist. The exhibition viewing dates are as follows: the Cummer Museum of Art, October 12, 2018-April 7, 2019; the New York Historical Society, May 3–July 28, 2019; the Palmer Museum of Art, Pennsylvania State University, August 24–December 8, 2019; and the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, January 19–March 22, 2020. The groundbreaking catalog features illustrations of more than 40 works by Savage, her students, and her contemporaries, archival letters, rarely seen photographs, and an extensive bibliography and essays by Kirsten Pai Buick, Bridget R. Cooks, and Howard Dodson. In celebration of the Washington, DC, book launch on June 23, 2019, exhibition organizer Jeffreen M. Hayes discusses the life, work, and lasting legacy of Savage as an artist and a community builder. This program was proposed and made possible by Darryl Atwell.
David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. David Smith (1906–1965) is arguably America’s greatest sculptor of the 20th century. His art enlarged the vocabulary of sculpture by employing welding and industrial processes and materials, laying the groundwork for the directness of minimalism and the realization that sculpture could be anything the artist desired. Smith’s oeuvre is a logical outgrowth of earlier 20th-century sculptural trends in cubism, constructivism, and surrealism. However, his work also represents a new paradigm for the language of modern sculpture that reflects the dynamic growth and industrial prowess of the United States after the Second World War. Smith’s confrontation with the process of creation broke the rules and expanded the possibilities of his art form. In part two of this lecture, presented at the National Gallery of Art on March 7, 2019, senior lecturer David Gariff explores Smith’s revolutionary art through a discussion of some of his most important and innovative works, including the Agricola, Tanktotem, Sentinel, Zig, Voltri, and Cubi series.
Elizabeth Dent, exhibition associate, National Gallery of Art. In 2014 the National Gallery of Art acquired a thirteenth-century French stained glass window from the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Originating in Soissons Cathedral in northern France, the window came into possession of Senator William A. Clark of Montana (1839–1925) around the turn of the century and was installed in the billiard room of his 121-room mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City, popularly referred to as “Clark’s Folly.” In this lecture, as part of the Works in Progress Lecture Series, on April 15, 2019 Elizabeth Dent discusses the iconography and history of the window, from its original devotional contexts at Soissons to its acquisition by Clark and its role within the decorative scheme of the mansion.
Federico Marcon, associate professor of East Asian studies and history and director of graduate studies, Princeton University Artworks representing animals—real or imaginary, religious or secular—span the full breadth and splendor of Japanese artistic production. As the first exhibition devoted to the subject, The Life of Animals in Japanese Art covers 17 centuries (from the fifth century to the present day) and a wide variety of media. At the symposium held on June 7, 2019, in conjunction with the exhibition, Federico Marcon discussed the fascination with animals that was characteristic of early modern Japan. Animals were the main attractions of street shows, theatrical performances, and illustrated fictions and were collected as pets and specimens. According to Marcon, scholars engaged in the study of birds, insects, fish, and beasts, and illustrations played a fundamental role in documenting research, conveying information, and aiding taxonomical precision.
Eric Denker, senior lecturer and manager of gallery talks and lectures for adults, National Gallery of Art On the occasion of the exhibition of Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice, Eric Denker, senior lecturer at the National Gallery of Art, presents a four-part lecture series examining Jacopo Tintoretto’s work in the context of 16th-century Venetian art, history, and culture. In this second lecture, “Tintoretto: The Early Work,” held on April 23, 2019, Denker investigates Tintoretto’s formative years as an artist. According to early biographers, Tintoretto only briefly studied with the eminent painter Titian early in his career. The ambitious young son of a cloth dyer drew his inspiration from both the older master’s works and from a variety of younger, more experimental artists during his formative years. Tintoretto’s work was informed both by the example of Pordenone as a kind of anti-Titian mannerist and by the experimentation of younger collaborators, including Andrea Schiavone and Bonifacio dei’ Pitati. By the time Tintoretto was 30, his own painting had reached a new level of sophistication and confidence, as seen in St. Mark and the Miracle of the Slave, which he painted for the Scuola Grande di San Marco in 1548.
Robert T. Singer, curator and head, department of Japanese art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art Artworks representing animals—real or imaginary, religious or secular—span the full breadth and splendor of Japanese artistic production. As the first exhibition devoted to the subject, The Life of Animals in Japanese Art covers 17 centuries (from the sixth century to the present day) and a wide variety of media—sculpture, painting, lacquerwork, ceramics, metalwork, textile, and the woodblock print. A selection of some 315 works, drawn from Japanese and American public and private collections, includes seven that are designated as Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government. The artists represented range from Sesson Shūkei, Itō Jakuchū, Soga Shōhaku, Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, to Okamoto Tarō, Kusama Yayoi, Issey Miyake, Nara Yoshitomo, and Murakami Takashi. To celebrate the opening on June 2, 2019, Robert T. Singer introduces the exhibition curated with Masatomo Kawai, director, Chiba City Museum of Art, in consultation with a team of esteemed of Japanese art historians. The Life of Animals in Japanese Art is on view through August 18, 2019
Anjuli J. Lebowitz, exhibition research associate, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art In 1902 Booker T. Washington commissioned photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston to record students participating in the curriculum at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama. Building on her previous projects in Virginia and Paris, Johnston created some of her most complex work to date on the Tuskegee grounds. On April 29, 2019, as part of the Works in Progress Lecture Series at the National Gallery of Art, Anjuli Lebowitz asserts that Johnston’s Learning Dressmaking, Tuskegee Institute, in particular, synthesizes methods of nineteenth-century visual anthropology with discourses surrounding African American citizenship that had been circulating since before the Civil War.
Eric Gottesman, artist and cofounder, For Freedoms, and assistant professor of art, Purchase College, State University of New York. Eric Gottesman photographs, writes, makes videos, and teaches, using art to explore aesthetic, social and political culture; his work has taken him to countries like Ethiopia and Jordan and to indigenous communities in Canada with projects that have questioned nationhood and investigated local histories. With For Freedoms, “a platform for creative civic engagement, discourse, and direct action” founded in 2016 in collaboration with artist Hank Willis Thomas, Gottesman partners with institutions and communities all over the United States to facilitate meaningful political discourse and engaged citizenship through art. Gottesman spoke about his use of art for community-building at the John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, “American Communities, Then and Now,” held on February 8, 2019.
I. M. Pei, architect of the National Gallery of Art East Building, describes his involvement with the building project and its early planning stages, including a trip with National Gallery of Art director J. Carter Brown to visit European museums. He explains the evolution of the building design and the challenges in meeting site and regulatory requirements and gaining the endorsement of government agencies for his design plan. Pei reflects on the relationship between the East Building and the West Building and describes important features of the materials and technology used during the construction of the former. He comments on his relationship with the National Gallery of Art building committee and describes the process of commissioning works of art for the new building. This TBD-minute interview is conducted by Gallery archivist Anne G. Ritchie and was recorded on February 22, 1993, for the National Gallery of Art oral history program under the auspices of the Gallery Archives.
Robert Echols, independent scholar, and Frederick Ilchman, chair of the art of Europe department and Mrs. Russell W. Baker Curator of Paintings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston In celebration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Jacopo Tintoretto (1518/1519–1594), three institutions—the National Gallery of Art, Washington; the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia; and the Gallerie dell’Accademia—organized a major exhibition on the Venetian master. Following its term at the Palazzo Ducale, Venice (its only other venue), Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice is on view at the Gallery from March 24 through July 7, 2019. As the first retrospective of the artist in North America, the exhibition features nearly 50 paintings and more than a dozen works on paper spanning the artist’s entire career, ranging from regal portraits of Venetian aristocracy to religious and mythological narrative scenes. Tintoretto has been considered one of the “Big Three” 16th-century Venetian painters, alongside Titian and Paolo Veronese, and works by Tintoretto’s assistants and followers have frequently been misattributed to the master. The exhibition curators, Tintoretto experts Robert Echols and Frederick Ilchman, are widely responsible for a new and more accurate understanding of Tintoretto’s oeuvre and chronology, first explored in the Museo del Prado’s Tintoretto exhibition in 2007. Echols and Ilchman celebrate the exhibition opening in this introductory lecture held on March 24, 2019.
Wu Hung, Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor of Art History, University of Chicago. In the six-part lecture series End as Beginning: Chinese Art and Dynastic Time, Wu Hung explores the narratives of Chinese art and their relationship to artistic production while reflecting on a series of questions: How did dynastic time emerge and permeate writings on traditional Chinese art? How did it enrich and redefine itself in specific historical contexts? How did it interact with temporalities in different historical, religious, and political systems? How did narratives based on dynastic time respond to and inspire artistic creation? In the sixth and final lecture, “End as Beginning: Dynastic Time and Revolution,” delivered on May 12, 2019, Wu Hung examines the end of China’s dynastic history in 1912 through an exploration of the concept of time at this interim moment, the transformation of a person’s body and image, and an emerging modern visual culture that exhibits its newness against the traditional modes of self-representation.
Elizabeth Alexander, poet, essayist, playwright, scholar, and president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Manthia Diawara, writer, cultural theorist, film director, scholar, and professor of comparative literature and cinema studies and director emeritus of the Institute of African American Affairs, New York University Painter Ficre Ghebreyesus (1962–2012) from Asmara, Eritrea, and filmmaker Manthia Diawara from Bamako, Mali, meet metaphorically in this program focusing on their work. Political refugees, activists, scholars, and storytellers, both men settled in the United States and found themselves working odd jobs, joining the African American community of poets and each digging into his own artistic practice. Ghebreyesus’s epic painting The Sardine Fisherman’s Funeral combines symbols, historical references, and iconography from different cultures to express a depth of feeling for the power of the sea. Diawara’s film An Opera of the World (2017), based on the African opera Bintou Were, mines the Malian filmmaker’s own migration experience against the backdrop of recent tragedies among refugees on the Mediterranean Sea. In this post-screening conversation held on March 23, 2019, at the National Gallery of Art, Manthia Diawara and Elizabeth Alexander discuss and contrast Ghebreyesus’s painting with Diawara’s filmic inquiry into the power of bearing witness.
Harry Allen, “The Media Assassin” and journalist; Nelson George, filmmaker; Adrian Loving; artist and educator; Miles Marshall Lewis, author of There’s a Riot Goin’ On; Vikki Tobak, author of Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop On February 17, 2019, the National Gallery of Art hosted a discussion celebrating the ingenuity, dedication, and power of Gordon parks. Local artist and educator Adrian Loving and scholar Vikki Tobak explored the visual influences and legacy of Gordon Parks in photography and film. Parks’s famous photograph A Great Day In Hip Hop (published in XXL Magazine, September 1998)—itself a tribute to Art Kane’s 1958 photograph A Great Day in Harlem—was the touchstone of this discussion, held in association with Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early Work 1940–1950.
Charles Ritchie, artist and associate curator, department of modern prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art As an artist who has worked behind the scenes with the prints and drawings collections of the National Gallery of Art for 35 years, associate curator Charles Ritchie relishes his unique vantage point for watching artists think. He has an intimate view of everything from the sketching, erasing, and refining at the core of drawing, to studying the sequences of proof impressions that record the development of a print. On March 25, 2019, as part of the Works in Progress series at the National Gallery of Art, Ritchie shares how his own drawing, journal keeping, and printmaking have been influenced by what he’s learned. The presentation offers a collection of his observations.
Panel discussion with Madeline Caviness, Mary Richardson Professor Emeritus and professor emerita of the history of art, Tufts University; and Ellen Shortell, professor of the history of art, Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Remarks by Dominique Lallement, president, American Friends of Chartres. The partial restoration of Chartres Cathedral that took place from 2014 to 2016 focused on the nave, stained-glass windows, and first figures in the ambulatory. Chartres: La lumière retrouvée documents this meticulous process through observation and conversations with numerous restorers, archaeologists, scientists, and architects (Anne Savalli, 2016, subtitles, 54 minutes). On November 25, 2018, the National Gallery of Art hosted the Washington premiere of the documentary, which was introduced by Dominique Lallement, president of the American Friends of Chartres. Afterward, Madeline Caviness and Ellen Shortell joined in conversation to discuss the importance and impact of this renovation, as well as the complexities of this 2-year restoration project. This program is held in collaboration with American Friends of Chartres and the Embassy of France.
Wu Hung, Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor of Art History, University of Chicago. In the six-part lecture series End as Beginning: Chinese Art and Dynastic Time, Wu Hung explores the narratives of Chinese art and their relationship to artistic production while reflecting on a series of questions: How did dynastic time emerge and permeate writings on traditional Chinese art? How did it enrich and redefine itself in specific historical contexts? How did it interact with temporalities in different historical, religious, and political systems? How did narratives based on dynastic time respond to and inspire artistic creation? In the first lecture, “The Emergence of Dynastic Time in Chinese Art,” delivered on March 31, 2019, Wu Hung begins by introducing the concept of dynastic time and its sustained role in narrating the history of Chinese art then traces this narrative mode to the fourth century BCE, when a body of texts associated visual and material forms with a succession of archaic dynasties.
Elizabeth Emery, Professor of Modern Languages and Literature, Montclair State University Elizabeth Emery explores the French engagement with the medieval period in the years 1870–1914. She examines this French medievalism (the post-medieval engagement with medieval things) through paintings, history textbooks for children, and popular World’s Fair attractions and memorabilia. Through this multimedia presentation she helps contextualize the late 19th-century French passion for medieval motifs that so influenced American visitor Senator William A. Clark that he returned to Washington with many treasures, including Boutet de Monvelʼs Jeanne d’Arc paintings now on display in the National Gallery of Art. This lecture was given on December 12, 2018, as part of an expert panel on French medievalism at the turn of the 20th century, examining the particular cases of Boutet de Monvel’s Jeanne d’Arc and book arts, along with the greater phenomenon of medievalism during the Belle Époque.
Tim Doud, artist; professor, department of art, American University; cofounder, ‘sindikit; and cofounder, STABLE; in conversation with artists Jonathan Lyndon Chase and Louis Fratino. Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Tim Doud, and Louis Fratino all engage with themes of race, gender, and sexuality while working in the genre of figurative painting. Yet the artists’ idiosyncratic styles also take their paintings beyond categories of identity, challenging normative strategies of representation. In this discussion recorded October 21, 2018, in conjunction with the special installation Bodies of Work at the National Gallery of Art, Doud moderates a conversation with Chase and Fratino about painting techniques and the tropes surrounding figurative work, looking particularly into how their methods explore and expand the practice of modern portraiture.
Oscar Fitzgerald, adjunct professor of decorative arts and design history, Corcoran School of Art and Design, George Washington University. Chairs reflect the change of styles over time better than any other form of furniture. They get a lot of use, and when they wear out, owners usually want to replace them with the latest style. On October 15, 2018, as part of the Works in Progress series at the National Gallery of Art, Oscar Fitzgerald traces the evolution of furniture styles from the 17th to the 20th century. Referencing highlights from Masterpieces of American Furniture from the Kaufman Collection, 1700–1830 installed in the West Building, Fitzgerald discusses 17th-century mannerism; baroque, rococo, and neoclassical styles of the 18th century; the Victorian reaction to classical design in the 19th century; and 20th-century modernism, with its rejection and then rediscovery of ornament.
Emily Ann Francisco, curatorial assistant, department of modern art, and former collection management assistant, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art. Nearly 2,600 photographs from the Corcoran Gallery of Art were recently accessioned into the National Gallery of Art’s collection. These acquisitions have richly expanded the Gallery’s holdings of photographs from the 1960s to the present, as well as in photojournalism, social documentary photography, and works by groundbreaking early photographers such as Eadweard Muybridge. In this lecture held on December 17, 2018, as part of the Works in Progress Lecture Series at the National Gallery of Art, Emily Ann Francisco discusses the unique challenges of researching and cataloging this collection and provides a broad survey of its highlights.
Victor Stoichita (Université de Fribourg and former Edmond J. Safra Visiting Professor at the National Gallery of Art) discusses Murillo’s Two Women at a Window in terms of the artist’s preoccupation with two relationships: that between the private space depicted in the painting and the public space of the beholder, and that of the viewer and the viewed.
John Edmonds, artist, in conversation with Jessica Bell Brown, PhD candidate, department of art and archaeology, Princeton University. In his photographs of African Americans, John Edmonds challenges the exclusionary history of art by expanding its roster of subjects, while using its conventions to recognize the humanity and sensuality of his sitters. For his Du-Rag and Hoods series, Edmonds dressed his subjects in culturally specific clothing in photographs that tempered stereotypes associated with streetwear with soft light and demure poses. Art historian and writer Jessica Bell Brown asserts that Edmonds’s portraits “are not rebuttals of stereotypes about black and brown men, nor are they objective ‘documents’ of black life. Rather, they are radical alternative propositions of how we can behold anew.” On September 23, 2018, in conjunction with the exhibition Dawoud Bey: The Birmingham Project, Bell Brown and Edmonds discuss the possibilities that come with new forms and subjects of portraiture. This program is made possible by the James D. and Kathryn K. Steele Fund for Photography. The special installation of four large-scale photographs and one video from Bey's The Birmingham Project will be on view at the National Gallery of Art through March 17, 2019.
Mason McClew, prints and drawings cataloger for the Corcoran Collection, department of American and modern prints and drawings. Traditionally, print publishers in the United States have been relegated to ancillary positions in art-historical discussions concerning the production of multiples by artists and printers. Mason McClew traces the development of fine art publishing through his experience cataloging the American works on paper recently acquired from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, illuminating little-known, yet influential figures who encouraged consumers to collect prints. In this lecture on November 5, 2018, as part of the Works in Progress Lecture Series at the National Gallery of Art, McClew discusses the rise of American print publishers in the art market from the Federalist era to the present by contextualizing significant examples from the Corcoran Collection with other notable works in the Gallery’s permanent collection.
Carel van Tuyll van Serooskerken (Teylers Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands, and former Edmond J. Safra Visiting Professor at the National Gallery of Art) brings viewers inside the “rustic paradise” of river landscapes by brothers Annibale and Agostino Carracci in the National Gallery of Art collection. While describing their distinct approaches to the subject, Professor van Tuyll shows the pleasure the brothers took in creating these views.
Eric Denker, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. I. M. Pei’s majestic East Building opened in June of 1978 with the express purpose of providing space for both the National Gallery’s rapidly expanding collection of modern art and as a venue for special exhibitions. The East Building has since hosted close to 250 exhibitions of artistic masterpieces from around the world. From the opening exhibition, The Splendor of Dresden: Five Centuries of Art Collecting, through the four floors devoted to Rodin Rediscovered, from The Treasure Houses of Britain to Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration, from Art Nouveau, 1890–1914 to Deceptions and Illusions: Five Centuries of Trompe l’Oeil Painting, these memorable exhibitions have left an indelible mark on the cultural life of the nation’s capital. This lecture celebrating the 40th anniversary of the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, presented by Eric Denker, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art, on August 12, 2018, describes some of the most significant East Building shows in the context of the Gallery’s ongoing exhibition program.
Naoko Takahatake, associate curator of prints and drawings, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Chiaroscuro woodcuts simulate three-dimensional form through their successive impression of relief-cut blocks that define areas of dark and light. This style of printmaking flourished in 16th-century Italy, interpreting works by such masters as Raphael, Parmigianino, and Titian and boasting extraordinary craft as well as often striking palettes. Yet questions remain: exactly how were chiaroscuros created, in what sequence were the blocks printed, and why? In this lecture recorded on October 14, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Naoko Takahatake discusses the chiaroscuro woodcut as one of the most beautiful developments in the history of printmaking. The Chiaroscuro Woodcut in Renaissance Italy is on view through January 20, 2019.
Caitlin Teal Price, artist and cofounder, STABLE, in conversation with John Pilson, photographer, video artist, and senior critic and acting director of graduate studies for fall 2018, Yale University School of Art. Moderated by Lily Siegel, executive director and curator, Greater Reston Arts Center. Caitlin Teal Price presents new work exploring themes of daily routine and ritual in the solo exhibition Green Is the Secret Color to Make Gold, on view September 29 through November 24, 2018, at the Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE). Price is known for her photographs of people; this body of work, however, depicts arrangements of objects—primarily those collected by her young son on walks they regularly take together—in consideration of value and systems of classification. The exhibition also includes Price’s first large-scale drawings. Price, with fellow Washington, DC–based artists Tim Doud and Linn Meyers, is cofounder of STABLE, a local studio complex that provides visual artists with an active, affordable workspace to pursue their profession. In this conversation moderated by Lily Siegel on October 7, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Price discusses with artist John Pilson the genesis and evolution of her practice and the common themes in their work.
David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. Referred to variously as “ABC art” or “primary structures,” minimalism displays the reductive aspects of earlier modernist trends that embraced geometric abstraction in painting and pure geometric forms in sculpture. In direct opposition to their abstract expressionist predecessors, minimalist artists sought to eliminate concepts of self-expression and subjective emotion. Painters and sculptors associated with minimalist practices include Donald Judd, Tony Smith, Dan Flavin, Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, and Robert Mangold. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff surveys the art and theory of minimalism. This lecture was presented on August 28, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.
David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. By the end of the 1950s abstract expressionism had begun to wane. Color-field or hard-edge painters, depending on their approach, adopted the large scale and rich palette of painters like Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko. Morris Louis poured paint onto huge unprimed canvases, as Pollock did, but in a different way and with different results. Urgent physical gestures gave way to something that looks more like an impersonal force of nature. Louis’s younger colleagues, including Gene Davis, Thomas Downing, Sam Gilliam, Howard Mehring, Kenneth Noland, and Paul Reed, were equally inventive, whether staining unprimed canvas, masking with tape, or crumpling and cinching the canvas to create a space at once optical and physical. Most of these painters lived in Washington, DC, where their originality earned them the name Washington Color School. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff examines a golden age in the history of modern art in Washington, DC. This lecture was presented on August 21, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.
Mary Morton, curator and head, department of French paintings, National Gallery of Art. Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot is best known as the great master of landscape painting in the 19th century who bridged the French neoclassical tradition with the impressionist movement of the 1870s. In honor of the opening of the exhibition Corot: Women, Mary Morton argues that Corot’s figure paintings, although constituting a much smaller, less well-known portion of his oeuvre, are of equal importance to the history of art, in particular for the founders of modernist painting such as Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, and Georges Braque. Dressed in rustic Italian costume or nude on a grassy plain, Corot’s women read, dream, and gaze directly at the viewer, conveying a sense of their inner lives. On September 9, 2018, at that National Gallery of Art, Morton explains how Corot’s sophisticated use of color and his deft, delicate touch applied to the female form resulted in pictures of quiet majesty. Corot: Women is on view through December 31, 2018.
David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art, August 14, 2018. From the mid-1940s through the 1950s painters in New York imbued their work with a heady new confidence, scale, and energy. Before and during World War II European émigrés poured into New York, including artists Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, Piet Mondrian, and the writer and surrealist leader André Breton. Their influence led to the exploration of biomorphic forms, archaic themes, and accidental processes designed to unleash the unconscious, like dripping and scraping. It is in the large canvases of the 1950s, by Jackson Pollock and others, that what one critic called “the triumph of American painting” can really be felt. These paintings increased ambition and introduced new techniques: Pollock’s rhythmic pours and drips, Clyfford Still’s dry palette-knifing, Newman’s masking-taped “zips,” Franz Kline’s chiseled gestures, and Joan Mitchell’s flurries of strokes. This generation of artists revealed new horizons in the practice of painting and the experience of viewing. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the triumph of American painting in postwar America. This lecture was presented on August 14, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.
David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. Just as the years before World War I witnessed the birth of abstraction, the war itself brought Dada, equally international movement, but dark and mordant where abstraction was earnest and utopian. The name, plucked from a dictionary in Zurich in 1916, means “rocking horse” in French or “yes yes” in Romanian and Russian. But as the name of a movement it really means nothing at all. Sick of the culture that had produced the carnage of the First World War, Dada challenged every sacred cow, throwing expression and authorship out the window and celebrating chance and absurdity instead. Then surrealism came along to channel the anti-art energies of Dadaists like Marcel Duchamp back into the museum, triggering a wildly successful yet fractious movement that swept Europe between the wars and embraced many media. Artists like Max Ernst, René Magritte, Kay Sage, and Yves Tanguy, to name only a few, would follow the dictum of the movement’s founder, André Breton, and “seek to resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality.” As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the chaos of Dada and the revolution of surrealism. This lecture was presented on July 31, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.
Lynne Cooke, senior curator, special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art, and James Benning, artist. On April 29, 2018, curator Lynne Cooke spoke with artist James Benning about his media artwork, including the video installation Stemple Pass, shown in the exhibition Outliers and American Vanguard Art, as well as his film measuring change (2016, HD, 61 minutes), screened as part of the film series Avant-Garde to Underground: Outliers and Film, Part 2, in conjunction with the exhibition.
David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. At the 1905 Salon d’Automne, an annual exhibition in Paris dedicated to vanguard art, Henri Matisse showed Open Window, Collioure alongside works by his disciples of the moment, including André Derain, Albert Marquet, and Maurice de Vlaminck. One critic, seeing an academic sculpture in the middle of the room, exclaimed, “Donatello chez les fauves!”–Donatello among the wild beasts!–and the first “ism” of the 20th century was born. Today Fauvist paintings are celebrated as the epitome of pleasure, a virtual vacation to the south of France, where the movement was born in the summer of 1905. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the seminal roles that Matisse, his followers, and the short-lived Fauvist movement played in the development of 20th-century expressionism. This lecture was presented on July 19, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.
Anna Wieck, curatorial research associate, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art. In this lecture delivered on May 7, 2018, as part of the Works in Progress series at the National Gallery of Art, Anna Wieck focuses on the early work of painter and ceramicist Maruja Mallo (1902–1995). Created within the context of the so-called Vallecas School, Mallo’s painting series Cloacas y campanarios (c. 1929–1932)—meaning “Sewers and Belfries”—and other early works picture the detritus found in Madrid’s outskirts and present Mallo’s critique of the academic conventions of Spanish landscape painting. Wieck considers Mallo’s interrogation of art world norms while also investigating the artist’s contemplation of her place within Spain’s artistic panorama following her prolonged exile to Argentina (1936–1961) as a result of the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939).
Alexandra Libby, assistant curator, northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art. The Dutch rose to greatness from the riches of the sea. From their massive cargo- and warships to their small vessels and fishing boats, they commanded the high seas and inland and coastal waterways, becoming leaders in maritime travel, transport, and commerce. Yet, the water was also a source of pleasure and enjoyment. In the warm summer months dune-covered beaches offered scenic vistas, while in the winter frozen canals offered a place for people of all ages to skate, play, and enjoy the outdoors. In this lecture held at the National Gallery of Art on July 1, 2018, Alexandra Libby discusses the essential, multifaceted relationship the Dutch maintained with the water, as seen in the exhibition Water, Wind, and Waves: Marine Paintings from the Dutch Golden.
Susan Felleman, professor of art history, film, and media studies, School of Visual Art and Design, University of South Carolina. Sculpture—especially figural sculpture—engages other bodies in multiple ways in film, heightening tensions between motion and stasis, the animate and inanimate, life and death, presence and absence, as well as embodying narrative themes. In this lecture held on June 17, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Susan Felleman surveys some of the sculptural themes in her four books of scholarship on art and cinema while also spotlighting a reciprocal aspect of this relationship: sculpture, particularly since the 1960s, that incorporates the medium of film.
Ginger Hammer, assistant curator, old master prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art Descrizione del Sacro Monte della Vernia is a rare and unusual illustrated volume about the Franciscan Sanctuary of La Verna, depicting the monastery and dramatic rocky terrain where Francis of Assisi (1181/1182–1226) received the stigmata nearly 400 years earlier. Jacopo Ligozzi (1547–1627), a celebrated draftsman and then head of the Academy of Drawing in Florence, created 22 preparatory drawings in 1608 that were subsequently etched or engraved into full-page plates for the volume. It is the centerpiece of the exhibition Heavenly Earth: Images of Saint Francis at La Verna on view at the National Gallery of Art through July 8, 2018. In this lecture held on June 24, 2018, Ginger Hammer expands on the art-historical context of traditional representations of Saint Francis at La Verna and the innovations in Franciscan subject matter characteristic of the Counter-Reformation.
Jamie Gabbarelli, assistant curator of prints, drawings, and photographs, RISD Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design. Sharing Images: Renaissance Prints into Maiolica and Bronze, the first exhibition of its kind in the United States, brings together some 90 objects to highlight the impact of Renaissance prints on maiolica and bronze plaquettes, the two media most dramatically influenced by the technology of image replication. Inspired by the acquisition of the important William A. Clark maiolica (glazed Italian ceramics) collection from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and drawing largely on the Gallery’s newly expanded holdings, the exhibition focuses on designs by major artists such as Andrea Mantegna, Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Parmigianino, and Albrecht Dürer, telling the story of how printed images were transmitted, transformed, and translated onto ceramics and small bronze reliefs, creating a shared visual canon across artistic media and geographical boundaries. To celebrate the opening of Sharing Images on April 1, 2018, Jamie Gabbarelli provides an overview of the exhibition, as well as an introduction to some its major themes, including the role prints in the rise of istoriato (maiolica painted with narrative scenes; literally, “painted with stories”) and the rediscovery of ancient art, the manipulation and misunderstanding of visual models, and the artistic exchanges between Italy and northern Europe in the age of print. Sharing Images: Renaissance Prints Into Maiolica and Bronze is on view through August 5, 2018.
Alexander Alberro, Virginia Bloedel Wright Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History.Barnard College/Columbia University, and James Meyer, curator of art, 1945–1974, National Gallery of Art On June 10, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Alexander Alberro joined James Meyer to discuss the publication of Abstraction in Reverse: The Reconfigured Spectator in Mid-Twentieth-Century Latin American. Their conversation explores how Latin American art in the mid-20th century has shaped and reimagined the interconnection between art and its public, as well as the role of the spectator in the realization of the artwork. What was the relationship of 20th-century Latin American artists to the North American and European legacy? What significance did the art of Latin American artists have during this time? What role did both artist and public play in the process of creating the artwork? And to what extent did this movement evolve beyond South America?
Panelists include E. A. Carmean Jr., a canon in the Episcopal Church and former curator and head of 20th-century art, National Gallery of Art (1974–1984); Jack Cowart, founding executive director, Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, and former curator and head of 20th-century art, National Gallery of Art (1984–1993); Mark Rosenthal, independent curator, former head of modern and contemporary art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and former curator and head of 20th-century art, National Gallery of Art (1993–1997); Marla Prather, former curator of modern and contemporary art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and former curator and head of 20th-century art, National Gallery of Art (1996–1999); and Jeffrey Weiss, former senior curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and former curator and head of modern and contemporary art, National Gallery of Art (1999–2007). The National Gallery of Art was conceived and given to the people of the United States by Andrew W. Mellon (1855–1937). In 1936 Mellon wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt offering to donate his art collection for a new museum and his own funds to construct a building for its use. With the president’s support, Congress accepted Mellon’s gift and established the Gallery in March 1937. Andrew Mellon had anticipated that the collections would grow beyond the capacity of the original building, and at his request, Congress had set aside an adjacent plot of land for future use. In 1967 Andrew Mellon’s children, Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon Bruce, offered funds for a second building, and architect I. M. Pei (b. 1917) was selected to design it. Construction of the East Building began in 1971, and artists such as Henry Moore and Alexander Calder were commissioned to create works for the space. On June 1, 1978, Paul Mellon and President Jimmy Carter dedicated the new museum to the people of the United States. To celebrate the East Building’s 40th anniversary on June 1, 2018, the Gallery’s current and former head curators of 20th-century art gathered to reflect upon their experiences acquiring art and planning special exhibitions.
Katherine Henninger, associate professor, departments of English and women's and gender studies, Louisiana State University. Bringing together some 115 photographs from across four decades of the artist’s career, Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings offers both a sweeping overview of her achievement and a focused exploration of the continuing influence of the American South on her work. For a public symposium held on April 14, 2018, in conjunction with the exhibition, Katherine Henninger explores visual legacies of the southern gothic in literature and photography, and contemporary southern artistic engagement with those legacies vis-à-vis figures of childhood. The southern gothic has powerfully registered American violence around race, class, sexuality, and gender, while figures of childhood register anxiety about the South’s—really, the nation’s—innocence and guilt in relation to such violence. Henninger demonstrates how Mann’s photographs evoke and disrupt these twinned representational traditions. This program is made possible by the James D. and Kathryn K. Steele Fund for Photography.
Ann Hoenigswald, senior conservator of paintings, and Kimberly A. Jones, curator of 19th-century French paintings, National Gallery of Art Two of Claude Monet’s paintings of the garden at his home in Vétheuil, France, have been reunited for the first time since they were created more than 100 years ago, thanks to a long-term series of loan exchanges between the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena. On view in the French impressionism galleries of the West Building from May 19 through July 29, 2018, the Norton Simon version of The Artist’s Garden at Vétheuil (1881) has long been believed to have served as the basis for the Gallery’s canvas of the same title. The paintings are the only two of the four known works Monet painted of this scene currently in public collections, and their relationship may not be as straightforward as scholars previously thought. Conservator Ann Hoenigswald and curator Kimberly A. Jones discuss new information revealed during recent technical analysis of the two paintings.
Hal Foster, Townsend Martin, Class of 1917, Professor of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University. In the six-part lecture series Positive Barbarism: Brutal Aesthetics in the Postwar Period, Hal Foster explores the pervasive turn, from the mid-1940s to the early 1960s, to the brut and the brutalist, the animal and the creaturely, as these are manifest in the early work of five artists. In the second lecture, “Jean Dubuffet and His Brutes,” held on April 15, 2018, Foster asks why Dubuffet invented the notion of art brut and how the artist could imagine an art “unscathed” by culture.
Judith Brodie, curator and head, department of modern prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art. Recent additions to the Gallery’s collection have sparked new discussions and new ways of thinking about “fine” art. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Judith Brodie looks at some examples, including works by Winsor McCay, Saul Steinberg, and the Guerrilla Girls, and considers how they both challenge and conform to established thinking and in what way they reshape the conversation. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.
Miguel de Baca, Terra Foundation Visiting Professor of American Art, University of Oxford, and associate professor, department of art history, Lake Forest College The studio life of Anne Truitt (1921–2004) is explored in the focus exhibition In the Tower: Anne Truitt, on view from November 19, 2017, through April 1, 2018. The first major presentation of Truitt's work at the National Gallery of Art, the exhibition celebrates the museum's acquisition of several major artworks by Truitt in recent years, including seminal works from the collection of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, as well as several outstanding loans. Bringing together nine sculptures, two paintings, and 12 works on paper representing the different media in which the artist worked, the exhibition traces Truitt's artistic development from 1961 to 2002. One of the most original and important sculptors to emerge in the United States during the 1960s, Truitt is unique in the field of minimalist art. She hand-painted her sculptures in multiple layers to create abstract compositions of subtle color in three dimensions. Her art is infused with memory and feeling, unlike much minimalist art, and while most of her peers were based in New York or Los Angeles, she worked alone and independently in Washington, DC. For a public symposium held on January 19, 2018, Miguel de Baca further explores ideas first introduced in his book Memory Work: Anne Truitt and Sculpture by considering Truitt’s oeuvre in the context of the cultural practice of historic preservation and the idea of the 20th-century “monument.”
Kristen Gonzalez, curatorial assistant, department of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art; Irene Pepperberg, lecturer and research associate, department of psychology, Harvard University, senior lecturer, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT, president, the Alex Foundation. The parrot was among many coveted imports to the northern Netherlands in the Golden Age, and its prominence in genre paintings of the period has generated interest not only among art historians, but also in the scientific community. In an interview on January 10, 2018, Kristen Gonzalez, curatorial assistant of northern baroque paintings, and Dr. Irene Pepperberg, Harvard scientist and renowned expert on animal cognition, discuss the lively interactions between parrots and people in Dutch paintings, some of which were examined during the landmark exhibition Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry. Pepperberg’s work with the African grey parrot has revolutionized ideas about animal communication and intelligence. Examining a number of Dutch genre paintings that depict parrots, Pepperberg and Gonzalez explore the role of these beloved family companions from a unique, multidisciplinary perspective. Their analysis considers a society that not only recognized the cognitive abilities of parents, but also documented these abilities in paintings of the highest caliber. Their paintings fetched large sums of money and provided an elite clientele exactly what they wanted—a reflection of their society’s sophistication and ideals. Pepperberg and Gonzalez consider the parrot and its place then and now, and reveal striking similarities in animal-human relationships throughout history.
Carrie Mae Weems, artist. Made only a few years after Carrie Mae Weems received her MFA in 1984 from the University of California, San Diego, Kitchen Table Series consists of 20 staged photographs depicting Weems and others seated at a table. Endowed with a keen sense of how to transform her body into an expressive tool, Weems used the photographs to tell the story of a woman’s life as seen through the intimate space of the kitchen—the traditional sphere of women and a site of sanctuary, creation, shared experiences, and emotional honesty. In this performance held on February 6, 2018, in conjunction with the installation of Kitchen Table Series in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, Weems presents this seminal body of work in the context of her career, including images from Grace Notes: Reflections for Now performed recently at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. This program is made possible by the James D. and Kathryn K. Steele Fund for Photography.
Aaron Cohen, music critic, humanities professor at Wright College, City Colleges of Chicago, and author of the forthcoming Move On Up: Chicago Soul Music and Black Cultural Power. On December 17, 2017, the National Gallery of Art held a 75th birthday tribute to Curtis Mayfield (1942–1999), American singer, writer, producer, and label owner. This program was proposed and made possible by Darryl Atwell. Remarks were presented by Aaron Cohen on the social, cultural, and political changes that shaped soul music in Chicago during the 1960s and 1970s and how musicians themselves were often agents of those very changes. As a singer, songwriter, producer, guitarist, and entrepreneur, Curtis Mayfield stood at the center of this movement. Cohen read excerpts from his forthcoming book Move On Up that describe Mayfield's working methods and his influence. Afterward, DJ Jahsonic presented music related to Mayfield and his legacy. A film screening followed of Urban Soul by Ghanaian British filmmaker John Akomfrah. An example of Akomfrah’s work with Smoking Dogs Films made for broadcast, Urban Soul uses a pop-culture subject—the phenomenon of RandB—as criteria to investigate deeper themes of corporate corruption and greed.
John Hand, curator of northern Renaissance paintings, National Gallery of Art Undoubtedly the greatest Renaissance artist from Estonia, Michel Sittow (c. 1469-1525) was born in Reval (now Tallinn in present-day Estonia), quite likely studied in Bruges with Hans Memling, and worked at the courts of renowned European royals such as King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile. Organized by the Art Museum of Estonia, Tallinn, and the National Gallery of Art, the exhibition Michel Sittow: Estonian Painter at the Courts of Renaissance Europe marks the occasion of the centennial of the Estonian Republic in 2018. On view at the Gallery from January 28 through May 13, 2018, the exhibition represents most of Sittow's small oeuvre through some 20 works. In this lecture held on March 11, John Hand examines Sittow's art in a broader context, including his relationship to Netherlandish contemporaries and a possible collaboration with Juan de Flandes.
Sarah Greenough, senior curator and head, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art. For more than forty years, Sally Mann (b. 1951, Lexington, Virginia) has made experimental, elegiac, and hauntingly beautiful photographs-a broad body of work that includes figure studies, still lifes, and landscapes. Offering both a sweeping overview of Mann's artistic achievement and a focused exploration of the continuing influence of the South on her work, the exhibition Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings presents some 115 photographs, many of which have not been exhibited or published previously. This powerful and provocative work is organized into five sections: Family, The Land, Last Measure, Abide with Me, and What Remains. On view from March 4 through May 28, 2018, the exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog with essays that explore the development of Mann's art; her family photographs; the landscape as repository of personal, cultural, and racial memory; and her debt to 19th-century photographers and techniques. Sarah Greenough celebrates the exhibition with this introductory lecture recorded on opening day.
Celeste-Marie Bernier, professor of black studies and personal chair in English literature, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh, and co-editor-in-chief, Journal of American Studies, Cambridge University Press. On the bicentenary of Frederick Douglass's birth, we commemorate the many sides of the man: the abolitionist, statesman, autobiographer, orator, reformer, essayist, politician, and, not least of all, father. In this lecture held on February 25, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Celeste-Marie Bernier traces the activism, artistry, and authorship of Douglass alongside the sufferings and struggles for survival of his daughters and sons: Rosetta, Lewis Henry, Frederick Jr., Charles Remond, and Annie Douglass. As activists, educators, campaigners, civil rights protesters, newspaper editors, orators, essayists, and historians in their own right, his children each played a vital role in the freedom struggles of their father. They were no less afraid to sacrifice everything as they each fought for black civic, cultural, political, and social liberties by every means necessary. No isolated endeavor undertaken by an exemplary icon, the fight for freedom was a family business, as the Douglasses' rallying cry lives on to inspire today's activism: "Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!"
Emily Pegues, curatorial assistant, department of sculpture and decorative arts, National Gallery of Art, and Dylan Smith, Robert H. Smith Research Conservator, department of object conservation, National Gallery of Art. Fatally injured in a hunting accident in 1482, the young Mary of Burgundy lingered on her deathbed long enough to dictate her will, specifying in it the desire to have a tomb erected suitable to her station as Duchess of Burgundy and the richest woman in late 15th-century Europe. Her tomb in Bruges drew on the skills of the best craftsmen in the Burgundian Netherlands to produce a marvel of northern Renaissance art in gilt brass, enamel, and stone. In this presentation held on February 12, 2018, as part of the Works in Progress series at the National Gallery of Art, Emily Pegues and Dylan Smith share their groundbreaking discoveries on the tomb. Using detailed visual examination and scientific analysis, a recent technical study of the tomb-the first ever undertaken-provides new insights into how this elaborate multimedia monument was created. When combined with documentary evidence, these findings shed light on the wider sculptural practices in northern Renaissance Europe.
Joshua Shannon, associate professor and director of graduate studies, art history and archaeology, and director, The Potomac Center for the Study of Modernity, University of Maryland. In this lecture recorded on February 11, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Joshua Shannon aims to recover the revealing strangeness of photorealist painting, a movement largely ignored since its heyday around 1970. Drawn from one chapter of Shannon's book The Recording Machine: Art and the Culture of Fact, the presentation focuses on works by the California painter Robert Bechtle. Shannon uses Bechtle's paintings to teach us about the role of photography in shaping everyday experience after World War II, lingering on photorealism's account of modern surfaces and interest in the odd pyschosocial phenomenon of posing. Shannon concludes by proposing a new understanding of the apparent antihumanism of American art in the 1960s and 1970s.
H. Perry Chapman, Professor, Department of Art History, University of Delaware. In the age of Vermeer, virtuous rivalry was thought to inspire painters to do their best; in contrast, envy, or jealous rivalry, was painting’s greatest enemy. Rembrandt's training and early career provide a context for understanding the foundational nature of friendly artistic competition, or emulation. In this lecture held on October 31, 2017, H. Perry Chapman uses two paintings by Johannes Vermeer, A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal and Young Woman Seated at a Virginal (National Gallery, London) as case studies to determine whether such virtuous rivalry could inspire invention and originality. This lecture accompanies the landmark exhibition Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry, on view from October 22, 2017, through January 21, 2018, which examines the artistic exchanges among Johannes Vermeer and his contemporaries from the mid-1650s to around 1680, when they reached the height of their technical ability and mastery of genre painting.
Judith Brodie, curator and head, department of modern prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art. In this lecture held on January 14, 2018, Judith Brodie presents the special installation of 18 drawings, two photographs, and an assortment of small sculptures by Saul Steinberg (1914-1999). This installation is part of an initiative-dating from the reopening of the East Building galleries in 2016-to include selected modern drawings, prints, and photographs as part of the permanent collection display. Revered by millions for his outstanding covers for the New Yorker magazine, Steinberg was an extraordinary draftsman whose line, according to the art critic Harold Rosenberg, was "delectable in itself." Whether making independent works or ones for publication, Steinberg brought a mordant wit and a sharp eye to all his art, creating works that disarm, enchant, and electrify. On view from September 12, 2017, through May 18, 2018, Saul Steinberg spans the years 1945 to 1984 and includes a wide range of subjects and types: from World War II air raids to New York hipsters, from collages incorporating real stationery to bogus documents enhanced with fake signatures and seals.
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., curator of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art. Exhibitions always provide opportunities for seeing works of art with fresh eyes. Rarely, however, have the comparisons of much-beloved paintings, such as those brought together in Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry, yielded so many insights about artistic achievement and the creative process. The landmark exhibition examines the artistic exchanges among Johannes Vermeer and his contemporaries from the mid-1650s to around 1680, when they reached the height of their technical ability and mastery of genre painting, or depictions of daily life. In this lecture held on January 7, 2018, Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. discusses some of these revelations and how they help explain the enduring impact of Vermeer's paintings. Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting is on view at the National Gallery of Art through January 21, 2018.
Rosamond Mack, independent scholar. Giovanni Bellini (1430/1435–1516) and Titian’s (1488/1490–1576) The Feast of the Gods is one of the greatest Renaissance paintings in the United States by two fathers of Venetian art. The Feast was the first in a series of mythologies, or bacchanals, commissioned by Duke Alfonso d'Este to decorate the camerino d'alabastro (alabaster study) of his castle in Ferrara. Bellini lavished unprecedented attention on vessels and containers in the painting, which range from common Venetian wares to rare exotic imports. In this lecture recorded on September 25, 2017, as part of the Works in Progress series, Rosamond Mack describes how Bellini and Titian’s representation varies from painstaking accuracy to learned invention, imbued with wit and sophistication, which would have enhanced the painting’s value as a conversation piece for the patron and his friends.
Kristen H. Gonzalez, curatorial assistant, department of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art. The newly independent Dutch Republic established a vast and profitable trade network in the 17th century. Among the most coveted of the impressive luxury imports was the parrot. Beautiful, exotic and rare, parrots become a mainstay in Dutch genre paintings. Their presence in these works is, however, more than ostentatious display. These very social and intelligent creatures were highly valued companions. The interaction between parrots and people gave Dutch genre painters an unprecedented opportunity for creativity and candor, upon which they skillfully capitalized. In this lecture held on November 20, 2017, as part of the Works in Progress series at the National Gallery of Art, Kristen Gonzalez traces the iconography of these birds in the history of art and highlights the departure from tradition evident in their depiction in the Dutch Golden Age. This lecture accompanies the landmark exhibition Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry, on view from October 22, 2017, through January 21, 2018, which examines the artistic exchanges among Johannes Vermeer and his contemporaries from the mid-1650s to around 1680, when they reached the height of their technical ability and mastery of genre painting.
Richard I. Suchenski, associate professor of film and electronic arts and director of the Center for Moving Image Arts, Bard College; and editor, Hou Hsiao-hsien. In this lecture recorded on September 3, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, Richard I. Suchenski discusses his book, Projections of Memory: Romanticism, Modernism, and the Aesthetics of Film—an exploration of innovative cinematic works that use their extraordinary scope to construct monuments to the imagination through which currents from the other arts can flow. By examining these works, Projections of Memory remaps film history around some of its most ambitious achievements and helps to clarify cinema as a twentieth-century art form. Suchenski addresses some of the core concerns of the book through a discussion of films by Andrei Tarkovsky, Béla Tarr, and Jean-Luc Godard alongside paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, Jacopo Tintoretto, and Matthias Grünewald.
Wolf Burchard, furniture research curator, National Trust, England. Charles Le Brun, the creator of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, was Louis XIV’s most prolific and powerful artist. In this lecture, recorded on October 6, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, Wolf Burchard shares his new book The Sovereign Artist: Charles Le Brun and the Image of Louis XIV. This monograph examines Le Brun’s wide artistic production, illustrating the magnificence of his paintings and focusing particularly on the interiors and decorative works of art produced according to his designs. Prior to Burchard’s position at the National Trust, from 2009 to 2014 he was curatorial assistant at the Royal Collection Trust, where he cocurated The First Georgians: Art and Monarchy, 1714-1760 at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, in 2014.
Jed Perl, author of Calder: The Conquest of Time, and contributor, The New York Review of Books; and Alexander S. C. Rower, Calder's grandson and president, Calder Foundation. On November 5, 2017 at the National Gallery of Art Jed Perl joins Alexander S. C. Rower to discuss the newly published Calder: The Conquest of Time: The Early Years: 1898-1940. This first biography of Alexander Calder, one of the most beloved and widely admired artists of the 20th century, is based on unprecedented access to his letters and papers as well as scores of interviews. Born in 1898 into a family of artists, Calder forged important friendships in adulthood with artists including Georges Braque, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miró, and Piet Mondrian. Calder: The Conquest of Time moves from his early studies in engineering to his first artistic triumphs in Paris in the late 1920s, to his emergence as a leader in the international abstract avant-garde, and to his marriage in 1931 to the free-spirited Louisa James. The biography also sheds new light on Calder's lifelong interest in dance, theater, and performance, ranging from the Cirque Calder, the theatrical event which became his calling card in bohemian Paris, to collaborations with the choreographer Martha Graham and the composer Virgil Thomson.
Anna Ottani Cavina (Università di Bologna, emerita; Fondazione Federico Zeri, presidente onorario; and former Edmond J. Safra Visiting Professor at the National Gallery of Art) focuses on John Robert Cozens, Cetara on the Gulf of Salerno (1790). Ottani Cavina describes Cozens’s visionary approach to watercolor painting, which inspired the romantic painters of the next generation.
Amy Sherald, artist, in conversation with Erin Christovale, assistant curator at the Hammer Museum Amy Sherald (b. Columbus, Georgia, 1973) received her BFA from Clark Atlanta University in 1997 and her MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2004. Sherald paints dynamic portraits designed to divulge an erudite understanding of the psychological consequences of stereotyping and racism. Each portrait depicts a friend or acquaintance suspended in vivid fashions before a nondescript background; skin tones are represented using a grayscale as a way of challenging the concept of color-as-race. Sherald is critical of African American cultural history and the representation of black bodies, and her portraits are satirical manifestations of identities shaped by political, social, economic, and cultural influences. In 2016 Sherald was the first woman to win the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition grand prize from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. The Outwin 2016: American Portraiture Today exhibition tours to three other US museums until January 2018. Other recent group shows include Southern Accent, coorganized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, and Face to Face: Los Angeles Collects Portraiture at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles. Her next solo exhibition opens at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in mid-2018. Sherald lives and works in Baltimore. In this conversation held on October 29, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, Sherald discusses her career, artistic process, and latest projects with Erin Christovale. This program is coordinated with Now Be Here #4, DMV, the fourth and final US iteration of a project to gather female and female-identifying visual artists for a group photograph of historic proportions.
Kimberly Schenck, senior conservator and head of paper conservation, National Gallery of Art. Dedicated to Edgar Degas (1834–1917) in the centennial year of his death, Volume 3 of the conservation division's biennial journal Facture: Conservation, Science, Art History focuses on the tremendous wealth of works by Degas in the National Gallery of Art collection. The first to feature the work of a single artist, this issue includes essays by conservators, scientists, and curators. It presents insights into Degas's working methods in painting, sculpture in wax and bronze, and works on paper, as well as a sonnet he wrote to his "little dancer." The Gallery has the third largest collection in the world of work by Degas, comprising 21 paintings, 65 sculptures, 34 drawings, 40 prints, 2 copper plates, and 1 volume of soft-ground etchings. Its extensive Degas holdings and conservation resources have inspired not only groundbreaking Gallery exhibitions—such as Degas, the Dancers (1984), Degas at the Races (1998), Degas's Little Dancer (2014), and Degas/Cassatt (2014)—but also exhibitions around the world. For the public symposium held as a centenary tribute on September 22, 2017, Kimberly Schenck presented an overview of Degas as a printmaker—highlighting works in the Gallery’s collection, including his preparatory drawing used for his most important etching project, Mary Cassatt at the Louvre.
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., curator of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art. Johannes Vermeer, the unprecedented exhibition that featured 21 of the existing 35 works known to have been painted by the Dutch artist, was on view from November 12, 1995, through February 11, 1996, at the National Gallery of Art. It was drawn from museums and private collections in Europe and the United States. Among the paintings on display was View of Delft, on loan from the Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague, which had never been seen outside Europe. In the winter of 1995/1996, the Gallery was closed during two federal government shutdowns and a blizzard, which severely affected public access to the exhibition. As a result, the Vermeer exhibition was inaccessible for 19 days of its run at the Gallery. After 10 days of the second government furlough (on December 27), the exhibition was reopened using private funds. The rest of the Gallery remained closed to the public. In this presentation held on November 15, 2015, to celebrate the 20th anniversary, Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. shares the amazing journey behind the scenes to bring this exhibition to the public.
Adriaan Waiboer, head of collections and research, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, and Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., curator of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art. The landmark exhibition Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry examines the artistic exchanges among Johannes Vermeer and his contemporaries from the mid-1650s to around 1680, when they reached the height of their technical ability and mastery of genre painting, or depictions of daily life. The introduction of quiet scenes unfolding in private household spaces, featuring elegant ladies and gentlemen, was among the most striking innovations of Dutch painting of the Golden Age, a time of unparalleled innovation and prosperity. The exhibition brings together nearly 70 works by Vermeer and his fellow painters, including Gerard ter Borch, Gerrit Dou, Pieter de Hooch, Gabriel Metsu, Frans van Mieris, Caspar Netscher, and Jan Steen, who lived in various towns throughout the Dutch Republic, from Delft and Deventer to Amsterdam and Leiden. To celebrate the exhibition opening on October 22, 2017, Adriaan Waiboer and Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. share how these artists inspired, rivaled, surpassed, and pushed each other to greater artistic achievement. Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting is on view at the National Gallery of Art through January 21, 2018.
Yuriko Jackall, assistant curator, department of French paintings, National Gallery of Art. Combining art, fashion, science, and conservation, the exhibition Fragonard: The Fantasy Figures brings together for the first time some 14 of the paintings known as the fantasy figures by Jean Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806). Fragonard is considered among the most characteristic and important French painters of his era, and this series—several rapidly executed, brightly colored paintings of lavishly costumed individuals—includes some of his most beloved works. The revelatory exhibition explores the many interpretations of the fantasy figures in the context of the artist's career and elucidates the development of that career, the identity of Fragonard’s sitters and patrons, and the significance of his innovative imagery. To celebrate its opening on October 8, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, Yuriko Jackall introduces the exhibition, which is on view through December 3, 2017.
Julia Bryan-Wilson, associate professor of modern and contemporary art, University of California, Berkeley; Lynne Cooke, senior curator, special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art On October 1, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, Julia Bryan-Wilson joined Lynne Cooke to discuss the publication of Fray: Art and Textile Politics, which explores textiles and their role at the forefront of debates about process, materiality, gender, and race in times of economic upheaval. Closely examining how amateurs and fine artists in the United States and Chile turned to sewing, braiding, knotting, and quilting amid the rise of global manufacturing, Bryan-Wilson argues that textiles unravel the high/low divide and urges us to think flexibly about what the politics of textiles might be. Her case studies from the 1970s through the 1990s are often taken as evidence of the inherently progressive nature of handcrafted textiles. Fray, however, shows that such methods are recruited to often-ambivalent ends, leaving textiles very much “in the fray” of debates about feminized labor, protest cultures, and queer identities. The first contemporary art history book to discuss both fine-art and amateur registers of handmaking at such an expansive scale, Fray unveils crucial insights into how textiles inhabit the broad space between artistic and political poles—high and low, untrained and highly skilled, conformist and disobedient, craft and art.
Matthias Mansen, artist, and John A. Tyson, assistant professor of art, University of Massachusetts Boston. Born in 1958 in Ravensburg, Germany, Matthias Mansen studied painting with Georg Baselitz and Markus Lüpertz at Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Karlsruhe. Although he trained as a painter, Mansen shifted his focus exclusively to printmaking in the second half of the 1980s. He advances the tradition of woodblock printing by transforming pieces of scavenged wood into printing blocks, which he progressively carves and recarves, using them to create large-scale compositions. The special installation Matthias Mansen: Configurations, on view in the West Concourse Gallery from July 23 through December 13, 2017, presents 13 woodcuts from the collection of the National Gallery of Art. John Tyson curated the installation during his Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Gallery. In this conversation, held on September 24, 2017, Mansen and Tyson discuss the artist’s career, his distinctive process, and the impact of research—into subjects from cartography to the US Exploring Expedition—on his artworks. Mansen lives and works in Berlin.
Valerie Hellstein, independent scholar, and Elizabeth Prelinger, Keyser Family Professor of Art History and Modern Art, Georgetown University, in conversation with Mollie Berger, curatorial assistant, department of prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art. This conversation, held on September 10, 2017, in conjunction with the exhibition Edvard Munch: Color in Context, aims to connect the highly charged and personal art of Edvard Munch (1863–1944) with contemporary notions of spirituality. Mollie Berger, Valerie Hellstein, and Elizabeth Prelinger explore how theosophy influenced Munch’s art, specifically his use of color. In addition, the discussion examines the ways in which advances in various scientific fields impacted the spread of spiritualism and how artists responded to these cultural shifts. Edvard Munch: Color in Context is on view at the National Gallery of Art from September 3, 2017, through January 28, 2018.
Lilian Thomas Burwell, Floyd Coleman, David C. Driskell, Sam Gilliam, Keith A. Morrison, Martin Puryear, Sylvia Snowden, and Lou Stovall; Ruth Fine, moderator and senior curator of special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art (retired). In this program, presented on March 17, 2017, eight distinguished artists discuss their careers and relationships as members of the Washington, DC, art world. Panelists are Lilian Thomas Burwell, Floyd Coleman, David C. Driskell, Sam Gilliam, Keith A. Morrison, Martin Puryear, Sylvia Snowden, and Lou Stovall. Ruth Fine, former senior curator, National Gallery of Art, moderated the panel, which was part of a two-day symposium at the National Gallery of Art. The program was organized by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts in collaboration with the Howard University Gallery of Art and was supported by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art.
Philippe Bordes, professor emeritus of art history, Université Lyon 2. Museums today give the painter Jacques Louis David (1748-1825) the same preeminent recognition that he enjoyed during his lifetime, as the creator of a commanding neoclassical style and a persuasive Napoleonic imagery. For about a century after his death, however, he was mostly rebuked by collectors and critics. In this lecture held on June 11, 2017, in conjunction with the exhibition America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting at the National Gallery of Art, Philippe Bordes accounts for these dramatic shifts in taste and perception. Bordes explains that it is necessary to invoke changing attitudes toward the prestige of antique models and toward an artist whose political concerns found expression in his works. Often at stake were fundamental debates as to what made a work of art attractive and how to construct a history of 18th-century French painting. The highs and lows of the critical reception of David’s paintings are a reminder that our own perceptions are bound to evolve over time. Bringing together 68 paintings that represent some of the best and most unusual examples of French art of that era held by American museums, America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting is on view from May 21 through August 20, 2017.
Alexander Nemerov, department chair and Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities, Stanford University. In the six-part lecture series The Forest: America in the 1830s, Nemerov explores the Hudson River School painters and their contemporaries, focusing on what their art did and did not show of the teeming world around them. The forest serves as a metaphor for the unruly and wooded realms of lived experience to which art can only gesture. The lectures present a fundamentally new account of Thomas Cole (1801–1848), John Quidor (1801–1881), James Fenimore Cooper (1789–1851), and other artists and writers of that time. The third lecture, held on April 9, 2017, is entitled “The Aesthetics of Superstition.” According to legend in 1830s Michigan, if you were bitten by a rattlesnake, the skin around the bite would resemble the pattern of the snake’s skin. How might the world then have been imagined as a poisonous pattern that entered into individual bodies? How might art, returning the favor, have bitten the world in such a way that the world eerily resembled it? And how might artists and writers, such as the youthful Francis Parkman, greatest of all historians of the American forest, have believed in this magical identity between world and image?
Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, Edmond J. Safra Visiting Professor, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art. The Simpson Collection at the National Gallery of Art is one of the few remaining private collections assembled with the participation of artist Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). The centenary of Rodin’s death offers an occasion to examine the large number of works that Katherine Seney Simpson and John W. Simpson, the first American collectors to meet Rodin, gave to the Gallery in 1942. In this lecture recorded on May 5, 2017, Antoinette Le Normand-Romain provides an overview of the Simpson collection of drawings and sculptures in bronze, marble, terracotta, and plaster, including Rodin’s portrait of Mrs. Simpson. The Gallery has benefitted since from the generosity of other donors, helping to build, as Yale University art historian Charles Seymour Jr. stated, “a first-rate collection” of works by Rodin.
Meredith J. Gill, professor of Italian Renaissance art and chair, department of art history and archaeology, University of Maryland, College Park. To think about angels among the world’s religions is to think about the question of embodiment. As messenger figures, they choose human form, yet they are incorporeal and without gender in their theological essence. Angels have long invited highly abstract and intricate categories of classification, particularly within the medieval university curriculum for which Bonaventure, the “Seraphic Doctor,” and Thomas Aquinas, the “Angelic Doctor,” wrote foundational texts. Yet angels have also invited the most sublime feats of artistic imagination. In this lecture recorded on April 28, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, Meredith Gill discusses several angelic episodes in Renaissance art, such as Tobias and the Angel and the Fall of the Rebel Angels, reflecting on mortal identity and experience in early modern times
Perry Y. Chin, architect, and Susan Wertheim, chief architect and deputy administrator for capital projects, National Gallery of Art. In celebration of the 100th birthday of architect I. M. Pei on April 26, 2017, Susan Wertheim honors Pei’s gift to the nation: his design of the National Gallery of Art East Building. Harmonizing with architect John Russell Pope's neoclassical West Building, the award-winning East Building, which opened in 1978, was designed by Pei in the modern idiom of its time. Magnificently realizing the long-term vision of Gallery founder Andrew W. Mellon and his children, Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon Bruce, the East Building has taken its place as one of the great public structures in the nation's capital. Designed at a crucial point in Pei’s long and productive career, the East Building won the American Institute of Architect’s Twenty-five Year Award in 2004, and Pei, considered a living legend, was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1983. Wertheim first discusses Pei’s architectural legacy at the Gallery and then joins with his longtime associate Perry Y. Chin to share experiences working on the recently completed East Building renovation.
Jarob J. Ortiz, large-format staff photographer, Heritage Documentation Programs, National Park Service. In winter 2015, the National Park Service (NPS) advertised a job listing in search of the next Ansel Adams (1902-1984), the landscape photographer known for his 1940s NPS commission to document nature as exemplified and protected in US National Parks. The full-time position with the Heritage Documentation Programs (HDP) required experience with large-format photography, which provides a higher resolution, is more durable than 35mm film, and allows the photographer more control to render perspective. The HDP administers the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), the federal government's oldest preservation program, and its companion programs: the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) and Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS). Documentation produced through the programs constitutes the nation's largest archive of historical architectural, engineering, and landscape documentation. The HABS/HAER/HALS collection is housed at the Library of Congress. Milwaukee-native Jarob J. Ortiz was selected for the HDP position out of 5,000 applicants. In this presentation held on April 18, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, Ortiz shares the photographs he has taken while serving in this important role.
Kimberly A. Jones, curator of 19th-century French paintings, National Gallery of Art. Frédéric Bazille (1841–1870) was a central figure in the history of early impressionism who worked closely with the renowned artists Claude Monet (1840–1926) and Auguste Renoir (1840-1917). Killed in the Franco-Prussian War just prior to his 29th birthday, Bazille all but vanished from history before his talent could be fully recognized. To celebrate the opening of Frédéric Bazille and the Birth of Impressionism on April 9, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, Kimberly A. Jones provides an overview of the exhibition, the first devoted to the artist in the United States in a quarter century. On view through July 9, 2017, the exhibition examines Bazille’s place within the vibrant avant-garde art scene of Paris in the 1860s and the role he played in the birth of the impressionist movement.
Christina Rosenberger, art historian. The abstract paintings of the American artist Agnes Martin (1912-2004) are often discussed in terms that approach religious devotion: they have been called a form of prayer, a revelation, even “purism in excelsis.” Martin’s carefully crafted works of art are designed to engender great floods of emotion in viewers. But what happens when we strip the rhetoric that surrounds Martin’s paintings away, and consider the art—the thousands of aesthetic choices that the artist made in her pursuit of a form of abstraction that was, to use her term, completely nonobjective? In this lecture held on March 19, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, Christina Rosenberger charts Martin’s artistic evolution through careful attention to her form and facture, arguing that Martin’s early work (1947-1961) defines the terms for all of her subsequent artistic production.
Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, commissioner, American Battle Monuments Commission; chairperson, Historic Landmarks Preservation Center; commissioner, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; founder and chair, NYC Landmarks50 Alliance; chair, New York State Council on the Arts; and director, Trust for the National Mall. As the definitive resource on the architectural history of New York City, The Landmarks of New York: An Illustrated Record of the City’s Historic Buildings, 6th ed., documents and illustrates the 1,352 individual landmarks and 135 historic districts that have been accorded landmark status by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission since its establishment in 1965. Arranged chronologically by date of construction, the book’s entries offer a sequential overview of the city’s architectural history and richness, presenting a broad range of styles and building types: colonial farmhouses, Gilded Age mansions, churches, schools, libraries, museums, and the great 20th-century skyscrapers that are recognized throughout the world. In this lecture recorded on March 1, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel shares how so many of these structures have endured, in large measure, through the efforts of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and hundreds of private sector preservation organizations, large and small. Since the commission was established, New York City has become the leader of the preservation movement in the United States, with more buildings and districts designated and protected than in any other city
Diane Waggoner, curator of nineteenth-century photographs, National Gallery of Art. The first exhibition to focus exclusively on photographs made in the eastern half of the United States during the 19th century, East of the Mississippi: Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Photography showcases some 175 works—from daguerreotypes and stereographs to albumen prints and cyanotypes—as well as several photographers whose efforts have often gone unheralded. Celebrating natural wonders such as Niagara Falls and the White Mountains, as well as capturing a cultural landscape fundamentally altered by industrialization, the Civil War, and tourism, these photographs not only helped shape America’s national identity but also played a role in the emergence of environmentalism. Diane Waggoner introduces the exhibition in this opening-day lecture recorded on March 12, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art. East of the Mississippi is on view through July 16, 2017.