Exhibition

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Hidden among thousands of great works by famous artists in the National Gallery of Art is the work of a different artist, whose presence is not intended to be noticed. A mount maker meticulously creates small brass fittings by hand. This intricate process enables works of art to hang weightlessly from exhibition walls or appear to float in space. Mount makers’ work is ever-present but never noticed. Take a glimpse behind the scenes to see a museum mount maker at work.

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On October 27, 2013, Kerry James Marshall discusses his painting Great America (1994), acquired by the National Gallery of Art in 2011 as a gift of the Collectors Committee, and the inspiration for the Gallery’s exhibition In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall, on view June 28 through December 8, 2013. 

One of the most celebrated painters currently working in the United States, Marshall explores through his work the experiences of African Americans and the narratives of American history that have often excluded black people. In Great America, Marshall represents the Middle Passage as a haunted theme park ride, indirectly suggesting instead of specifically depicting the slave trade. The Middle Passage was the middle leg of the triangular trade of manufactured goods, crops, and human cargo between Europe, Africa, and the Americas during the colonial era through the 1850s. 

Drawing upon the artist’s prodigious knowledge of art history and the African diaspora, Marshall’s paintings combine figurative and abstract styles and multiple allusions, from both “high” and “low” sources. In Marshall’s art the past is never truly past: history exerts a constant, often unconscious pressure on the living. This interview followed Marshall’s participation in a panel discussion titled Making It: Race and Class in Contemporary America, held on the occasion of the artist’s In the Tower exhibition.

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This film presents still and original moving footage of historically significant Byzantine churches in Greece. Set to the music of Byzantine hymns and chants, the film evokes the original context of many works of art in the exhibition Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections at the National Gallery of Art, October 6, 2013–March 2, 2014. Produced by the Department of Exhibition Programs at the National Gallery of Art. This film was made possible by the HRH Foundation

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Kerry James Marshall has exhibited widely in both the United States and abroad and is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, among other honors. His work often explores the experiences of African Americans and narratives of American history that have historically excluded black people. Drawing upon the artist’s prodigious knowledge of art history and African diasporic culture, his paintings combine figurative and abstract styles and multiple allusions. In Marshall’s art, the past is never truly past: history exerts a constant, often unconscious pressure on the living. In this program recorded on June 26, 2013, exhibition curator James Meyer and Kerry James Marshall discuss the works and themes of his exhibition In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall, on view at the Gallery from June 28 to December 8, 2013.

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Narrated by Tilda Swinton, this film was made in conjunction with the exhibition Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music. The impresario Serge Diaghilev was the creator and driving force of the Ballets Russes. He persuaded, cajoled, and charmed the greatest talents of the early twentieth century to join his company. Artists (Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse), composers (Igor Stravinsky and Erik Satie), choreographers (Michel Fokine and George Balanchine), and dancers (Vaslav Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova) all collaborated to realize Diaghilev’s dream of a seamless fusion of the arts. The spectacular productions of the Ballets Russes dazzled audiences and revolutionized modern dance.  This documentary includes footage of revivals of Ballets Russes performances by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, and the New York City Ballet. Also featured are sets and costumes from Diaghilev’s innovative productions, as well as interviews with dancers, musicians, and scholars.

This film was made possible by the HRH Foundation.

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Narrated by Ethan Hawke, this film was made in conjunction with the exhibition George Bellows. Bellows arrived in New York City in 1904 and depicted an America on the move. In a twenty-year career cut short by his death at age 42, he painted the rapidly growing modern city—its bustling crowds, skyscrapers, and awe-inspiring construction projects, as well as its bruising boxers, street urchins, and New Yorkers both hard at work and enjoying their leisure. He also captured the rugged beauty of New York's rivers and the grandeur of costal Maine. This documentary includes original footage shot in New York City and Maine; examples of Bellows' paintings, drawings, and prints; and archival footage and photographs.

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Narrated by Ethan Hawke, this film was made in conjunction with the exhibition George Bellows. Bellows arrived in New York City in 1904 and depicted an America on the move. In a twenty-year career cut short by his death at age 42, he painted the rapidly growing modern city—its bustling crowds, skyscrapers, and awe-inspiring construction projects, as well as its bruising boxers, street urchins, and New Yorkers both hard at work and enjoying their leisure. He also captured the rugged beauty of New York's rivers and the grandeur of costal Maine. This documentary includes original footage shot in New York City and Maine; examples of Bellows' paintings, drawings, and prints; and archival footage and photographs.

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This short documentary, narrated by Ed Harris, was produced by the National Gallery of Art in conjunction with the exhibition Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape. Joan Miró was passionately committed to his native Catalonia and its struggle for independence from Spain. But he also longed to escape into artistic freedom. This tension drove his art in strange and beautiful ways. Miró was by turns influenced by Dada, surrealism, and abstract expressionism. His changes in styles and subjects also reflected the horrific events of the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the dictatorship of Franco. This documentary includes original footage shot in Barcelona and Catalonia, images of Miró's paintings and sculpture, and archival footage and photos.

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David McCullough, a two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning author and recipient of the National Book Award, discusses his new book, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. In this video recorded on September 26, 2011, at the National Gallery of Art, McCullough tells the story of America's longstanding love affair with Paris through vivid portraits of dozens of significant characters. Notably, artist Samuel F. B. Morse is depicted as he worked on his masterpiece Gallery of the Louvre. McCullough spoke at the Gallery in honor of the exhibition A New Look: Samuel F. B. Morse's "Gallery of the Louvre," on view from June 25, 2011 to July 8, 2012. The exhibition, program, and video were coordinated with and supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

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Narrated by Willem Dafoe and with Alfred Molina as the voice of Paul Gauguin, this film was made in conjunction with the exhibition Gauguin: Maker of Myth. Gauguin (1848–1903) abandoned impressionism to create an art driven less by observation than by imagination. His gifts as an artist were matched by a talent for creating myths about places, cultures, and most of all, himself. This film explores his search for an authenticity he felt missing in modern Europe, a search that took him to ever more remote lands: Brittany, Martinique, and Polynesia. Never finding the paradise of his dreams, he recreated it in his paintings, sculpture, drawings, and prints. The film is available for sale at the National Gallery of Art. The film is made possible by the HRH Foundation.

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Narrated by Isabella Rossellini and produced by the National Gallery of Art, this film traces the career of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, an artist whose work thrilled and delighted the Habsburg courts of the later 16th century. Arcimboldo was best known for his "composite heads"—faces composed of fruits, vegetables, fish, flowers, and beasts of all kinds. The film explores the connection between his paintings and the burgeoning natural sciences, the voyages of discovery, and the atmosphere of intellectual curiosity at the courts of Europe. The film is made possible by the HRH Foundation. Produced in conjunction with the exhibition Arcimboldo, 1526–1593: Nature and Fantasy.

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This film explains the process of creating a polychrome sculpture using the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Saint Ginés de la Jara (about 1692) by Luisa Roldán as an example. Seventeenth-century Spanish polychrome sculpture was intended to appear as lifelike as possible and artists frequently achieved remarkable effects of realism. The film is divided into four short chapters: "The Structural Elements," "Carving the Figure," "Saints’ Garments: Estofado Technique," and "Flesh Tones: Painting the Encarnaciones." Digital animations highlight the construction of the Saint Ginés sculpture. Footage of sculptor Marcelo Moreira Santos and painter Sylvana Barrett demonstrates techniques current in seventeenth-century Spain. Narration provided by Zahira Véliz. The film was produced by the J. Paul Getty Museum.

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This short documentary, narrated by curator Harry Cooper, was produced by the National Gallery of Art in conjunction with the exhibition In the Tower: Mark Rothko. The film considers Rothko's style, which infused abstract painting with emotional significance. Recognized in the 1950s for his use of brilliant colors, Rothko changed direction in the 1960s and produced a series of canvases known as the black-form paintings. Critics and artists often associated the darkness of these works with Rothko's bouts of illness and depression, but Cooper argues that the paintings are a continuation of the painter's lifelong exploration of light.

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Over the course of nearly half a century, Robert and Jane Meyerhoff acquired works by some of the most influential American artists in the postwar era, building a collection that bridges the divide between abstract and figurative painting. More than 40 artists are represented, with special focus on Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Brice Marden, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella. Harry Cooper, the National Gallery's curator of modern and contemporary art, gives a tour of the exhibition, which includes 126 paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture. By discussing the works according to themes such as Line, Drip, Gesture, and Concentricity, he presents the collection in new and often unexpected ways. The Meyerhoffs have donated 47 works to the National Gallery of Art since 1987, and their entire collection will eventually be given to the museum.

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Over the course of nearly half a century, Robert and Jane Meyerhoff acquired works by some of the most influential American artists in the postwar era, building a collection that bridges the divide between abstract and figurative painting. More than 40 artists are represented, with special focus on Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Brice Marden, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella. Harry Cooper, the National Gallery's curator of modern and contemporary art, gives a tour of the exhibition, which includes 126 paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture. By discussing the works according to themes such as Line, Drip, Gesture, and Concentricity, he presents the collection in new and often unexpected ways. The Meyerhoffs have donated 47 works to the National Gallery of Art since 1987, and their entire collection will eventually be given to the museum.

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Late 19th–century art is usually identified with airy and colorful impressionist paintings and the radiant atmosphere of Paris. But in the shadowy recesses an art of a very different kind thrived. Prints, drawings, and small sculpture from the period present an alternative vision in depictions of the inner worlds of emotions, anxieties, and fantasies. Mainly stored away rather than openly displayed by their owners, the works in this exhibition appealed to artists and audiences devoted to a private aesthetic experience. Peter Parshall, the Gallery's curator of old master prints, talks about the works in the exhibition and their subtle and complex depictions of human psychology decades before the publication of Sigmund Freud's theories on the unconscious.

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The armor, paintings, and tapestries in the exhibition were made for the Spanish royal family—the nobles, kings, and Holy Roman Emperors who expanded Spain’s influence throughout Europe and the New World. These objects reveal the exquisite work of artists and craftsmen who served the Spanish ruling class from the 15th to the 18th century. In the intricate and finely wrought details on shields, portraits, and tapestries, something quite different is also revealed: an attempt to link the Spanish monarchy with the pieties of the Catholic Church, the power of the ancient Roman empire, and the cultural glories of ancient Greece. David Brown, curator of Italian and Spanish paintings at the National Gallery of Art, describes this subtle advertising campaign waged by the Spanish throne to advance its goals and reputation.

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Narrated by Willem Dafoe and with Alfred Molina as the voice of Paul Gauguin, this film was made in conjunction with the exhibition Gauguin: Maker of Myth. Gauguin (1848–1903) abandoned impressionism to create an art driven less by observation than by imagination. His gifts as an artist were matched by a talent for creating myths about places, cultures, and most of all, himself. This film explores his search for an authenticity he felt missing in modern Europe, a search that took him to ever more remote lands: Brittany, Martinique, and Polynesia. Never finding the paradise of his dreams, he recreated it in his paintings, sculpture, drawings, and prints. The film is available for sale at the National Gallery of Art. The film is made possible by the HRH Foundation.

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Narrated by Willem Dafoe and with Alfred Molina as the voice of Paul Gauguin, this film was made in conjunction with the exhibition Gauguin: Maker of Myth. Gauguin (1848–1903) abandoned impressionism to create an art driven less by observation than by imagination. His gifts as an artist were matched by a talent for creating myths about places, cultures, and most of all, himself. This film explores his search for an authenticity he felt missing in modern Europe, a search that took him to ever more remote lands: Brittany, Martinique, and Polynesia. Never finding the paradise of his dreams, he recreated it in his paintings, sculpture, drawings, and prints. The film is available for sale at the National Gallery of Art. The film is made possible by the HRH Foundation.

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Narrated by Willem Dafoe and with Alfred Molina as the voice of Paul Gauguin, this film was made in conjunction with the exhibition Gauguin: Maker of Myth. Gauguin (1848–1903) abandoned impressionism to create an art driven less by observation than by imagination. His gifts as an artist were matched by a talent for creating myths about places, cultures, and most of all, himself. This film explores his search for an authenticity he felt missing in modern Europe, a search that took him to ever more remote lands: Brittany, Martinique, and Polynesia. Never finding the paradise of his dreams, he recreated it in his paintings, sculpture, drawings, and prints. The film is available for sale at the National Gallery of Art. The film is made possible by the HRH Foundation.

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Narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi and produced by the National Gallery, this excerpt is from a new documentary film that examines the explosion of artistic activity around the Bay of Naples beginning in the first century BC. The film includes original footage of houses in Pompeii and of the seaside villas that dotted the coastline of the Bay of Naples. The 30-minute version of the film is on view and for sale at the National Gallery of Art. The film is made possible by the HRH Foundation. Produced in conjunction with the exhibition Pompeii and the Roman Villa: Art and Culture around the Bay of Naples.

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Over the course of seven hours, on June 5, 2008, Martin Puryear and 12 art handlers installed Ladder for Booker T. Washington at the National Gallery of Art in the West Building, Rotunda. This time-lapse movie demonstrates the process of hoisting the 36-foot-long ash and maple sculpture into the Rotunda in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art. Produced in conjunction with the exhibition Martin Puryear.

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This two-minute trailer of the new documentary produced by Blue Bear Films for the National Geographic Society on the occasion of the traveling exhibition Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul features footage of the 2003 rediscovery of the collections from the National Museum, Kabul, which had been hidden in the vaults of the Central Bank in the Presidential Palace in 1988. National Geographic archaeologist Fredrik T. Hiebert and museum director Omara Massoudi give their personal accounts of this dramatic story. A ten-minute version will be shown in the exhibition and the full-length 28-minute film will be available in the Gallery Shops this summer. The exhibition begins a 17-month tour of the United States at the National Gallery of Art, on view May 25–September 7, 2008.

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Edward Hopper's paintings often show people and places in states of enigmatic isolation, loneliness, and contemplation.  These are among the fabled Hopper themes-so fabled it would hardly seem possible to go beyond them to give another account of his art. Focusing on one Hopper painting, Ground Swell of 1939, this lecture tries to provide a thicker, denser, more surprising story of what it meant for Hopper to make a painting, especially in the year 1939. Produced in conjunction with the exhibition Edward Hopper.

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This excerpt is from a new documentary chronicling the rise of one of the greatest landscape painters of all time, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), who rendered the subtle effects of light and atmosphere in revolutionary ways. A barber's son, he entered the Royal Academy art school at age fourteen and became, over the course of six decades, the leading British artist of his era. This overview of Turner's career and influences includes footage of locations important to him in Wales, Switzerland, and England, and readings from writers and artists of the era, including John Ruskin and Lord Byron. A 30-minute version of the film may be purchased at the National Gallery of Art. Narrated by Jeremy Irons and produced by the Gallery in conjunction with the exhibition J.M.W. Turner, the film is made possible by the HRH Foundation.

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The National Gallery of Art has released a new video podcast about the artist and his work and influence. In the podcast, which features more than 50 of Hopper's paintings and watercolors, Senior Curator Franklin Kelly discusses New York City, New England, and the cinema as Hopper saw and portrayed them—and as we view them today through his work. The filming of the pod cast was made possible by Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. Music composed and performed by Scott Silbert of the US Navy Band. Music engineered by David Morse of the US Navy Band.

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This excerpt is from a new documentary produced by the National Gallery of Art that includes archival footage of Edward Hopper (1882–1967), new footage of places that inspired him in New York and New England, including his boyhood home in Nyack and his studio on Washington Square, where he lived and worked for more than 50 years. Narrated by actor and art collector Steve Martin, this film traces Hopper's varied influences, from French impressionism to the gangster films of the 1930s. Artists Red Grooms and Eric Fischl discuss Hopper's influence on their careers. Curators discuss recent and diverse perspectives on Hopper's art. The 30-minute version of the film is on view and for sale at the National Gallery of Art. The film is made possible by the HRH Foundation. Produced in conjunction with the exhibition Edward Hopper.

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Photographer Garry Winogrand (1928–1984) is known for his sweeping portrait of American life during the postwar decades. His photographs powerfully combine the hope and exhilaration as well as the anxiety and turbulence that characterized America during these vital years, revealing a country that glitters with possibility but also threatens to spin out of control. In 1977, Winogrand was invited by photographer and professor Geoff Winningham to speak with students at Rice University in Houston. For more than two hours, Winogrand entertained questions from students on a broad array of topics; a selection from this seminar is shown here. This video was produced by the National Gallery of Art in conjunction with the exhibition Garry Winogrand, organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. © Geoff Winningham, 1977