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Wyeth Lectures in American Art

Established in 2003, the Wyeth Lecture in American Art is a biennial event hosted by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, and supported by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. Wyeth lecturers are chosen on the basis of their outstanding contributions to the study of and scholarship on American art.

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John Singleton Copley and Benjamin West were born in 1738; Charles Willson Peale, some two and one-half years later. Gilbert Stuart and John Trumbull, born in 1755 and 1756, respectively, belonged to the next generation. Their paths crossed and recrossed throughout their uniformly long lives. They formed friendships, influenced each other both through their art and personally, competed for clients, and eventually drifted apart, or, in the case of Copley and West, became bitter enemies. This lecture by Jules David Prown focuses on the artists’ personal and professional encounters and interactions to tell the story of how they affected each other’s lives and work.

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Recorded on November 4, 2009, this podcast presents the fourth Wyeth Lecture in American Art, a biennial event hosted by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts and supported by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. Richard J. Powell focuses on Thomas Eakins (1844–1916) as uniquely empathetic among the many 19th-century artists who depicted African American performance and entertainment. Eakins' Negro Boy Dancing (1887; Metropolitan Museum of Art) shows a young banjo player, an elderly teacher, and an adolescent dancer, evoking the American rage for the form of musical theater known as minstrelsy. Eakins' watercolor, along with two oil-on-board studies at the National Gallery of Art, challenged the tendency of minstrelsy to employ racial ridicule and physical exaggeration. Instead, Powell argues, Eakins adhered to a painterly realism as well as his own brand of empathy and ethics.

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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.