In a forbidding mountain landscape, a young man lies buried to his shoulders in snow. A tam-o’-shanter has fallen from his head, and his gloved right hand rests atop it. The man’s pale gray complexion and closed eyes suggest he is unconscious or worse. Two enormous dogs are posed above him—one, wearing an ornamented metal collar with small bells and a red blanket on his back, appears to bark while digging at the snow covering the man’s body. The other, a darker-colored dog with a small cask suspended from his neck, sits licking the man’s bare left wrist and hand. On the right, men in dark robes are hurrying toward the scene, the foremost one gesturing as if to signal an emergency. Beyond, buildings are partially visible amidst the rocky flanks of the mountains.
The large, highly assured, and remarkable painting that depicts this scene, Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler (1820), was the creation of Edwin Landseer, the most accomplished British animal painter of the 19th century. In 1820, when he completed and exhibited the work, the 18-year-old Landseer, though not yet famous, was already recognized for his precocious talents in drawing and painting. Alpine Mastiffs was by far the largest and most ambitious work the young artist had ever attempted, and it would be the one that brought him recognition and launched his career.
The Gallery’s collection of British paintings from the first half of the 19th century, although rich in the work of the two great practitioners of landscape, J. M. W. Turner and John Constable, has relatively few examples by other important figures. Landseer’s Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler is a significant acquisition, standing not just as a highly important, seminal picture in the oeuvre of one of the leading artists of the era but also as a stunningly individual monument in the history of European Romantic painting.
Two acquisitions enhanced the Dutch and Flemish collection in fiscal year 2019: Philips Wouwerman’s The Departure for the Hunt (c. 1665/1668) and Jan Jansz van de Velde III’s Still Life with Stoneware Jug and Pipe (1650), both acquired through the ongoing generosity of The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund. In The Departure for the Hunt, Wouwerman depicts a party in front of an elegant country estate preparing for a falcon hunt. A master of narrative detail, he filled the scene with lively vignettes of pages carrying falcons and bringing wine, a huntsman sounding the horn to signal the start of the event, and even a merry company enjoying a peacock pie feast on the terrace above. Combining a subtle palette of browns with a striking blue sky and employing periodic accents of bright color throughout, Wouwerman captured both the elegance of this aristocratic pastime as well as the majestic beauty of the countryside.
A masterpiece in grays and earth tones, Still Life with Stoneware Jug and Pipe is an especially fine example of the only 40 or so paintings Van de Velde executed during his short career. A stoneware wine jug emblazoned with the crest of Amsterdam is surrounded by a smoker’s requisites: a long clay Gouda pipe, a paper wrapping filled with tobacco, and an earthenware brazier whose broken sides reveal embers of glowing peat within. From the discarded embers of the pipe, a delicate wisp of smoke trails slowly upward, enlivening the image with its subtle sense of movement, but also underscoring the otherwise overarching tranquility of this majestic, small-scale work.
The French paintings department drew from the Chester Dale Fund to acquire an early work by Henri Lehmann, Woman of the “Orient” (1837), which depicts a female figure sitting languorously in a sumptuous blue-green and gold tunic. Born in Kiel, Germany, the young painter arrived in Paris in 1831 and immediately joined the studio of J. A. D. Ingres, the reigning official artist of the day. Lehmann absorbed Ingres’s training in the academic method, evidenced here in the refined contours of the sitter’s form and the graceful shading in her face and naked arms. By the 1830s, however, romanticism had fully matured as a countervailing force to what some considered the cool, overly rational style of neo-classicism. The rich color and sensuality of the image, as well as the imagined origins of this figure from the faraway “orient” link it to the movement of romanticism. Lehmann exhibited regularly at the official annual exhibition in Paris known as the Salon, winning medals in 1840, 1848, and 1855. He was knighted by the French government in 1846 and became a French citizen the same year. He was appointed a member of the Institut de France in 1864 and joined the faculty of the École des Beaux-Arts in 1875.
Jackson Pollock’s Ritual (1953) is the latest and surely one of the most important gifts ever to become part of the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection at the Gallery. In this towering, powerful late work, Pollock returned to a more traditional kind of painting (vertical orientation, no pouring, figurative suggestions) but with a singular energy born of his poured paintings.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s Black White and Blue (1930) entered the collection, as expected, from the bequest of Barney A. Ebsworth. Its steely palette and clash of sharp and rounded forms make it a standout in O’Keeffe’s oeuvre and a major addition to the Gallery’s collection of early American modernist art.
Simon Hantaï’s Meun (1968), given by the artist’s widow, Zsuzsa Hantaï, is the second work by this important and original French-Hungarian postwar artist to enter the collection. The artist’s method of crumpling, painting, and then stretching canvas is exemplified by this spare, lyrical abstraction, which recalls Henri Matisse’s cutouts as well as the work of Pollock, Morris Louis, and other American artists who developed new ways of applying paint to canvas.
A recent figure painting by the Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, Midnight Truth (2017) is monumental in scale yet delicate in touch. Given by Lisa and Steven Tananbaum, the luminous work depicts the wide-eyed young girl who is one of the artist’s trademarks. Finally, Mel Bochner’s Master of the Universe (2010) is a brashly colorful example of his thesaurus paintings, given by the late Anita Reiner and her husband Burton.
The generosity of Virginia Dwan continued this year with three sculptural gifts: Modular Wall Structure (1968), a large white gridded aluminum relief by Sol LeWitt; Issue (conceived 1966), a physical-conceptual work by William Anastasi consisting of the removal of a vertical strip of wall plaster; and Fred Sandback’s Untitled (Flat Wall Piece) (1970), a subtle rectangular hanging of copper wire.
Following the Collectors Committee meeting, a number of patrons joined together to supplement remaining committee funds in order to purchase Keith Sonnier’s Go Between (1968) for the Gallery. The early sculptural installation reflects the artist’s abiding interest in the use of artificial light in combination with translucent and opaque materials to evoke the hazy beauty of the Louisiana bayou where he grew up.
Thanks to the generosity of Drs. Yvonne and A. Peter Weiss, the Gallery is now home to arguably the most important British medal in the United States. Cast in gold, unique, and of outstanding quality, the medal was originally owned by King Charles I. It features the king’s portrait in profile on one side and a ship on the other—probably the Sovereign of the Seas, which launched in 1637 and was the largest warship in the Royal Navy.
Charles commissioned the medal in 1639 from his official medalist Nicolas Briot. It remained in the king’s possession until just before his beheading on January 30, 1649. In the tense days before his execution, he presented it as a gift to his confessor, William Juxon, bishop of London (later archbishop of Canterbury).
The medal’s ownership history is unbroken. Several months after receiving the medal from Charles, Juxon gave it to his niece Elizabeth Merlott as a wedding present. It then descended in the Merlott-Chitty family for 10 generations before passing into the Godman family in 1891. The connection with Juxon was eventually forgotten, and the dealers who purchased the medal in 2010 from Desmond Frederick Shirley Godman did not know how important their new acquisition truly was. The discovery was made only after the sale to the most recent owners.
Briot, the artist responsible for the medal, moved to London in 1625 from his native France. Within a year, he had secured the exclusive right to reproduce Charles’s image on coins and medals. The lucrative career that followed included posts as chief engraver of the royal mints in England and Scotland. Briot executed The Juxon Medal on the eve of one of the most fraught periods in British history.
In 1639, Charles was struggling to hold on to power. His grasp would soon unravel with the start of the English Civil War in 1642, which ultimately led to his arrest by parliament for treason. As he endured his trial and awaited his beheading, he relied on Juxon for spiritual comfort. Considered a martyr by the Anglican Church because he refused to compromise his religion in order to be saved, Charles was canonized in 1662. Objects associated with his death—including The Juxon Medal—came to be venerated as relics in the Anglican Church.
Perhaps the most important gift during fiscal year 2019 involved both 19th- and 20th-century drawings. Robert Brownlee bequeathed 21 choice works in the collection that he and his late partner, the distinguished art historian, curator, and connoisseur William B. Jordan, had formed over many decades. These include a fine study by Jacques-Louis David, two drawings by Eugène Delacroix, a superb figure study by Henri Lehmann, a major black chalk study of a bather by Edgar Degas, two lively studies by Pierre Bonnard, and a late graphite drawing by Pablo Picasso. Transformative of the Gallery’s collection, however, are Pierre Puvis de Chavannes’s oversized figure study for the mural Massillia, Greek Colony (c. 1867/1869); František Kupka’s vibrant study for L’accord des couleurs (c. 1918); a large composition by Joan Miró (1929); a grand portrait by Alberto Giacometti of his brother, Diego Seated (1948); a major Cy Twombly (1958); and John Cage’s sublime River, Rocks, and Smoke 4/10/90 No. 17 (1990). Each of these becomes the Gallery’s finest work on paper by the respective artist.
On the occasion of joint exhibitions at the DIA Foundation, Mel Bochner donated Barry Le Va’s Particles (1967), an important early drawing related to Le Va’s studies for felt installations. Bob Stana and Tom Judy’s gift of 87 works features three fine drawings by the Spanish-American surrealist Federico Castellón; a 1973 abstraction by the Washington, DC, painter Alma Thomas; an exquisite corpse drawing by Kerry James Marshall, Stephen DeSantis, and Curtis Bartone; a portrait by self-taught artist Ted Gordon; and prints by Dorothy Dehner, Minna Citron, Mary Corita Kent, Chakaia Booker, Howardena Pindell, and Richard Howard Hunt.
The collection of old master drawings grew apace with a host of acquisitions, including some outstanding rarities. A pair of pastels of hunting trophies by Antoine Berjon, executed in about 1810, is unique in the oeuvre of the artist best known for portraits and flower pieces. Measuring some six feet square, The Siege of Tortona (1886–1867) by Andrea Gastaldi is the single most impressive drawing to join the collection this year. The grand scale and the masterly execution make this extraordinary work a centerpiece in the Gallery’s rapidly growing collection of 19th-century Italian works on paper.
Prints and Illustrated Books
Among the approximately 100 prints acquired by the department of old master prints, two 19th-century works are outstanding. Fuerte cosa es! (That’s Tough!) (1810/1820) is a rare, lifetime proof from Francisco de Goya’s Disasters of War, one of the most important and influential print series ever made. Created in response to the Napoleonic occupation of Spain (1808–1814) during the Peninsular War, the 82 etchings and aquatints expose war’s horrors and depict the upheaval and widespread devastation in the wake of the conflict. That’s Tough! shows a French soldier sheathing his sword. In the background, two soldiers pull down the hanged bodies of Spanish civilians that will now be quartered and dismembered. The miasma of dark aquatinted passages at left stands in contrast to the areas of white paper that Goya held in reserve to denote the stark daylight that plays over the scene, reminding viewers that this is no dream; this is the reality of war. Because Disasters of War was not published until 1863, such proofs reveal Goya’s working process and offer the best means to understand his intense and complex vision for this series.
Darkness also pervades and creates a sense of mood and atmosphere in the second print: Edgar Degas’s Après le Bain II, one of two uniquely inked impressions of the first state of the lithograph of 1891 or 1892. Indeed, this composition exemplifies Degas’s interest in experimenting with and extending the possibilities of printmaking. Degas began by revisiting an earlier design. He had one of his drawings of a nude bather photographically transferred to a lithographic stone and then continued working intensely on the image directly in the stone. Some areas were redefined with a lithographic crayon, including the outlines of the bather’s figure and the flowing locks of her hair. The rounded forms of her body, on the other hand, were enhanced by Degas’s employment of subtle scraping along her left and right sides. When this first state of Après le Bain II was printed, ink flooded the stone, resulting in an impression that evokes a charcoal drawing or one of the artist’s celebrated monotypes.
Nearly 400 prints created at Crown Point Press in San Francisco entered the collection as part of a continuing donation by the press’s founder and master printer, Kathan Brown; begun in 1996, it now totals more than 1,900 prints. Emblematic of the extraordinary range of artists who work at Crown Point, this latest gift includes works by Wayne Thiebaud, Ed Ruscha, Tomma Abts, Leonardo Drew, Pat Steir, Shahzia Sikander, Marcel Dzama, Mamma Andersson, John Zurier, Richard Tuttle, Chris Ofili, Alyson Shotz, and Katsura Funakoshi.
Jasper Johns’s most recent etching, Untitled (2018), a profound meditation on past motifs and mortality, extends the Gallery’s important holdings of Johns’s printed oeuvre. Other notable acquisitions of contemporary prints include the collection’s first works by the German artist Christiane Baumgartner: her groundbreaking portfolio of 25 woodcuts, Eine Sekunde (2004), and the monumental woodcut, Solaris I (2008). The celebrated gallerist and publisher Carl Solway and his wife Elizabeth donated Ann Hamilton’s haunting book weight ee, (human carriage) (2009/2010), from a series related to an installation at the Guggenheim Museum, in honor of Kaywin Feldman’s appointment as the Gallery’s director.
The department of photographs augmented its collection with an exceptional gift from Mary and Dan Solomon of 724 photographs. This group includes more than 140 pictures by such distinguished photographers as Robert Adams, Mel Bochner, Robert Heinecken, Sally Mann, Irving Penn, Alec Soth, and Edward Weston. In addition, their gift includes a rich collection of 19th- and 20th-century vernacular material and more than 400 press photographs that represent almost every major news event from the flight at Kitty Hawk through the Vietnam War.
Other important 19th-century additions include Alexander Gardner’s two bound albums of 100 albumen prints titled Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1866). Widely celebrated as one of the most notable publications of the Civil War, Gardner’s Sketch Book includes many of the most well-known photographs of the war, such as Gardner’s A Sharpshooter’s Last Sleep, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (1863) and A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (1863). Released after the end of the war, the Sketch Book did not sell well, thus few copies remain today.
The Avalon Fund and a gift from the Gordon Parks Foundation allowed the Gallery to acquire eight photographs by Gordon Parks, including his portrait of the author Langston Hughes (1941) as well as four of his 1943 pictures of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first unit of black pilots to serve in the Army Air Corps.
In addition, the Charina Endowment Fund enabled the acquisition of Dawoud Bey’s Night Coming Tenderly, Black (2017), a powerful re-imagining of the underground railroad.
Rare Books and Images
The library acquired 90 titles for the rare book and special collections in fiscal year 2019 thanks to generous support from the J. Paul Getty Fund in honor of Franklin Murphy, the Grega and Leo A. Daly III Fund for Architectural Books, and the David K. E. Bruce Fund. Breviarium s[ecundu]m Romanum usum includes six full-page woodcuts, of which four bear the monograph of Ugo da Carpi, a pioneer of the chiaroscuro technique. Printed in Venice by Jacopo Pencio, this is the only known copy of the Roman Breviary produced by this press and dated June 14, 1515. A drawing manual by Jusepe de Ribera entitled Cartilla para aprender a dibuxar (Madrid, 1774) is the first known technical manual by a Spanish painter. Although Ribera’s prints enjoyed a wide circulation during his lifetime in the 17th century and were widely copied, a Spanish edition did not appear until this printing with 25 engravings by Juan Barcelón, who was named “académico de mérito” by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando.
Two notable gifts enriched the collection this year. Marc Salz, the son of art dealer and collector Sam Salz, donated the only extant inventory book from his father’s gallery from the years 1939 to 1945. As a complement to the Sam Salz Archive of photographs acquired by the department in 1982, it is an invaluable resource for provenance research. Alexander Byron donated an album of photographs that includes images of John Singer Sargent’s 1888 portrait of Eleanora O’Donnell Iselin.
Important individual photographs acquired include a group depicting the interior of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City by Guillermo Kahlo (c. 1925); a waxed paper negative and a group of albumen photographs by Benjamin Brecknell Turner (1860 and c. 1870s); a view of St. Étienne-du-Mont in Paris by Charles Marville (1865); and early photographs of the portal of the south transept of Notre-Dame de Paris by Henri Le Secq (1852) and the House of Lords, London by Roger Fenton (1857–1859).
Other noteworthy additions to the collection include self-portraits by Vivian Maier (1963) and Amy Blakemore (c. 1995) and portraits of Clementine Hunter (1986), Henry Moore (1963), Jared French (1945), Salvador Dalí (1969), Robert Rauschenberg (1960s), and August Sander (1963).
During fiscal year 2019, the Gallery presented a program of 18 exhibitions. Six of these exhibitions—Jackson Pollock’s “Mural”; Water, Wind, and Waves: Marine Paintings from the Dutch Golden Age; Sense of Humor: Caricature, Satire, and the Comical in Prints and Drawings from Leonardo to the Present; Corot: Women; Dawoud Bey: The Birmingham Project; and Rachel Whiteread—continued from the previous fiscal year.
Chiaroscuro woodcuts—color prints made from the successive printing of multiple blocks—flourished in 16th-century Italy. The first comprehensive exhibition devoted to this remarkable art form, The Chiaroscuro Woodcut in Renaissance Italy brought forth new art-historical and technical research.
For the first time, the formative decade of Gordon Parks’s 60-year career was the focus of Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early Work 1940–1950, providing a detailed look at his early evolution through some 150 photographs. Interactive screens in the exhibition galleries showed photographs by Parks as they originally appeared in magazines such as Ebony and Life, allowing visitors to appreciate how photographs that are now lost circulated to the public. The Gallery, in association with the Gordon Parks Foundation and Steidl, published a fully illustrated catalog to accompany the exhibition.
To celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of Jacopo Tintoretto (1518/1519–1594), the Gallery organized three exhibitions that focused on the artist’s drawings, prints, and paintings. Venetian Prints in the Time of Tintoretto was a display of prints by 16th-century artists who influenced Tintoretto or responded to the dynamism and expressiveness of his style. Drawing in Tintoretto’s Venice was the first exhibition to focus specifically on Tintoretto’s evolution as a draftsman, and it provided new ideas about the dating and function of his drawings. A large photomural of his figurative sketches at the entrance drew visitors into the exhibition. As the first retrospective of the artist in North America, Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice included many significant international loans traveling to the United States for the first time. Monumental paintings from Venetian churches necessitated the fabrication of new walls. Wall colors throughout were chosen with care to enrich the context. The Gallery produced a half-hour film, shown in an adjacent theater and on PBS stations, featuring original footage of Tintoretto’s paintings in the churches and palaces of Venice. Through the education department’s new Digital Distribution Platform, 42 television stations in 21 states with annual audiences of some 2 million viewers acquired the film. The Gallery produced both an Italian-language version of the film, shown in Venice at the Ducal Palace and the Accademia Gallery, and a short film using motion graphics to provide a virtual recreation of one of Tintoretto’s most important projects: the paintings (now dispersed) for the Scuola di San Marco in Venice. To accompany the exhibition, the Gallery published a fully illustrated catalog containing new scholarship on Tintoretto’s place as one of the greatest Italian painters.
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 presented The American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists. The exhibition featured some 80 paintings, watercolors, drawings, and photographs, including a substantial group by women artists as well as several recently discovered works never exhibited publicly, created by American artists who were profoundly influenced by the renowned critic. Ruskin’s call for a revolutionary change in the practice of art found a sympathetic audience in America among a group of like-minded artists, architects, scientists, critics, and collectors who organized the Association for the Advancement of Truth in Art. New research revealed that the members of the association sought reform not only in the practice of art but also in the broader political arena during the Civil War era. The Gallery published a fully illustrated catalog to accompany the exhibition.
Oliver Lee Jackson: Recent Paintings was the latest installment of the Tower Project at the Gallery. American painter, printmaker, and sculptor Oliver Lee Jackson (b. 1935) created a body of work that 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. On display were 18 paintings created during the past 15 years, many of which were shown publicly for the first time. In the film produced for the exhibition, the artist spoke about his working process, materials, and inspirations from his studio in Oakland, California. The Gallery also produced a brochure to accompany the exhibition.
The Gallery’s most ambitious exhibition of the fiscal year, The Life of Animals in Japanese Art, explored the role of animals—real or imaginary, religious or secular—in Japanese art and culture. Small zodiac prints were made into large banners that hung in the atrium, setting the theme of the exhibition. An interactive, five-screen digital work featured pixelated images of animals. Spanning the fifth century to the present and including sculpture, paintings, lacquerwork, ceramics, metalwork, textiles, and woodblock prints, the exhibition featured some 300 works drawn from Japanese and American public and private collections, including seven that are designated as Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government. More than 85 cases were fabricated to accommodate the various object types, including some of the largest ever built at the Gallery. The last room featured fashions by Issey Miyake evoking animals and a painting by Takashi Murakami, the largest painting ever installed at the Gallery. Related programs included lively audio tours for children ages eight to 12; a series of Japanese films featuring animals; a symposium with talks by specialists in Japanese art, literature, history, and religion; and a special web feature on the symbolism of animals in Japanese folklore. The Gallery published a fully illustrated catalog to accompany the exhibition.
The Gallery reached for the sky with two photography exhibitions, By the Light of the Silvery Moon: A Century of Lunar Photographs and The Eye of the Sun: Nineteenth-Century Photographs from the National Gallery of Art. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, By the Light of the Silvery Moon presented some 50 photographs, from the 19th century to the space-age 1960s, that played a significant role in preparing for the mission and transformed the way that we envision and comprehend the cosmos. The galleries were painted an atmospheric blue to set the stage. Two stereo-viewing stations and an illuminated three-dimensional viewer brought the images of the moon to life. A film culled from NASA’s archival footage featured highlights from the July 1969 Apollo mission. The Eye of the Sun marked the 180th anniversary of photography’s introduction to the world in 1839. Roughly 140 photographs offered an in-depth look at the development of the medium throughout its first 50 years. Drawn from the Gallery’s rich holdings of 19th-century photographs, the exhibition featured many works that had not been on view previously, including several recently acquired photographs. The exhibition was organized chronologically and thematically, beginning with the earliest photographs in the collection; followed by several examples of daguerreotypes; and ending with photographs made in 1889 by the Kodak, the first snapshot camera.
A 45-foot-tall banner of Verrocchio’s David and Goliath beckoned to visitors from the 6th Street portico to see Verrocchio: Sculptor and Painter of Renaissance Florence. This first monographic exhibition in the United States on the innovative artist, painter, sculptor, and teacher, whose students included Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli, brought together some 50 of his masterpieces in painting, sculpture, and drawing, allowing viewers to appreciate how his work in each art form stimulated creativity in the others. A newly designed frame and state-of-the-art pedestal gave the Gallery’s Leonardo painting of Ginevra de’ Benci a fresh and more accessible look. Groundbreaking technical research explored Verrocchio’s materials and techniques, offering revelations about his artistic choices. The exhibition proposed several carefully argued new attributions of works in different media. The Gallery was the sole American venue for this landmark exhibition. A film shown in the exhibition and on PBS stations explored the career of this exceptionally versatile artist. The Gallery published a fully illustrated catalog to accompany the exhibition.
The final exhibition of the fiscal year, The Touch of Color: Pastels at the National Gallery of Art, featured 64 exquisite drawings from the permanent collection. The exhibition traced the history of pastel from the Renaissance to the 21st century and examined the many techniques that artists have developed to work with this colorful medium. Due to the fragility of the medium, these works are rarely on view. A photomural bursting with the color of pastel sticks enticed visitors at the 7th Street entrance and at the exhibition entrance. Mary Cassatt’s pastel box was featured in a didactic case along with technical pages and examples of historic pastel sticks and holders. Two interactive touchscreens in the galleries let visitors explore the variety of effects that can be achieved with pastel. The Gallery produced an illustrated brochure to accompany the exhibition.
The Gallery administered the loan of 365 works of art to 166 sites in the United States during fiscal year 2019. This year, the Gallery loaned numerous works to new and infrequently lent-to domestic venues that included smaller regional museums as well as university museums. Some of the highlights included La toilette by Nicolas Ponce after Pierre-Antoine Baudouin with border by Charles-Nicolas Cochin II and La toilette by Nicolas Joseph Voyez after Sigmund Freudenberger to the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens; three engravings by Adriaen Collaert after Hans Bol and four engravings and one woodcut by Dirck Volckertz Coornhert after Maerten van Heemskerck to the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University; Mirr by Jean Arp and Genesis by Matta to the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; East Hampton Beach, Long Island by Winslow Homer to the Cape Ann Historical Museum; 24 watercolors by various artists from the Index of American Design to the Farnsworth Art Museum; Study for “Catskill Creek” by Thomas Cole to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site; Storm-Tossed Frigate by Thomas Chambers and Moon by Arthur Dove to the Hudson River Museum; and The Picture from Thibet by Emil Carlsen to the Huntington Museum of Art and the Lyman Allyn Art Museum. Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. 3 by Georgia O’Keeffe and eight photographs of Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz traveled to the Wichita Art Museum. Those same works, as well as Winter Road I by Georgia O’Keeffe, traveled to the Nevada Museum of Art.
This year, the education division developed projects for educators around the world to encourage deep, meaningful interactions with the Gallery’s collection. The division published its first massive open online course, or MOOC, on the edX platform. Teaching Critical Thinking Through Art is a multipart offering that includes demonstration videos and interactive tools. Currently, more than 8,500 people from 146 countries are enrolled in the course, 37 percent of them identifying as American. The summer 2018 website publication, Uncovering America, has reached 22,000 unique users. This digital resource explores what it means to be American using stories told through objects in the Gallery’s permanent collection.
Created for a younger demographic than the Gallery’s typical visitor, NGA Nights (formerly known as Evenings at the Edge) has become a staple offering, held six evenings during fiscal year 2019. Each NGA Nights event included music, performers, talks in gallery spaces, art making, and food and drink for purchase. Data collected over the past two-and-a-half years demonstrate that 54 percent of attendees are between the ages of 18 and 35, compared to the 19 percent within that range per the visitor study of 2009. Community weekends also continue to bring in many local and younger (70 percent under age 45, compared to 30 percent in 2009) first-time visitors.
Created from photographs of residents from all four quadrants of the city, the mural project Faces of DC was displayed for several months outside the 7th Street entrance to demonstrate how photographers often draw inspiration from their communities. Another initiative, Teaching Artists’ Showcase, reached out to those interested in contemporary artists and their processes. Incorporated into NGA Nights, the showcase highlighted area artists, chosen by selection, through discussions of their work.
Research conducted at the Gallery shows that visitors linger much longer when sketching from works of art. They also tend to have more meaningful experiences, saying things like, “This was the best family experience of our week-long stay in the DC area.” Art-making programs of all kinds are consistently well attended. Taken together, Drop-in Art Making, a new event held a number of weekends throughout the year; the art-making portions of NGA Nights and Community Weekends; and last year’s Big Draw served more than 40,000 visitors.
The education division also created a translation strategy and adapted several programs and related materials for Spanish-speaking audiences, including Art Around the Corner, Storytime for families, and several NGA Nights pop-up talks. Audio highlights tours of both buildings are already translated into six languages, including American Sign Language.
In an effort to reach the local teen community, the division joined forces with the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program and brought three amazing young women to the Gallery for six weeks. The program will continue in the future.
Further enriching the pool of potential museum staff, the internship and fellowship program brought 26 paid interns and two postdoctoral fellows to the Gallery from 13 states and six foreign countries. These young people were assigned to work in 19 departments throughout the institution.
The education division also continued all its traditional programs, often with a newly inspired point of view. The division now offers a school tour entitled Perspective-Taking Through Art as well as a public tour intended to foster empathy.
Through programs and publications, the education division served almost 530,000 visitors. Outreach efforts, including showings of Gallery films on public television, allowed the Gallery to reach another 34 million viewers across the nation and around the world.
Concerts and Films
Since the inaugural music programs of the Gallery’s first director David Finley in 1942, the music department has continued to foster an understanding of the collection and special exhibitions and enhance visitors’ experiences with music events year-round. In the 2019 fiscal year, the department organized and presented more than 75 concerts, including the weekly Sunday afternoon concerts; the Jazz in the Garden series; several midweek series, such as the new Sound Sketches on the fourth Friday of every month; the seven-part series for staff and the public that celebrated diversity and cultural awareness; and three concerts marking the European Union Month of Culture. More than 20,000 visitors attended the Gallery’s indoor concerts, with an estimated 10,000 visitors coming each week to the summer concerts in the Sculpture Garden. Seven Sunday concerts highlighted special exhibitions, while the Sound Sketches concerts illuminated the Gallery’s collection. The concert series is supported by funds bequeathed to the Gallery by William Nelson Cromwell and F. Lammot Belin, with generous additional support from the Billy Rose Foundation and the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.
The Gallery’s film department organized 21 retrospectives throughout the year that included rare treasures and new restorations from major international film archives such as the National Film Archive of Japan, Cineteca di Bologna, British Film Institute, Gaumont Pathé Archives, Library of Congress, and others. The department also screened new art films from Europe; participated in several Washington, DC, film festivals; and maintained its involvement in the International Federation of Film Archives. Filmmakers, scholars, and critics were invited to introduce events and lead discussions. Fourteen films were added to the Gallery’s archive of documentary films on art.
A partial record of film series organized by the department includes Lifting Traces: Memories of London for the exhibition Rachel Whiteread; a retrospective of the celebrated Italian director Luchino Visconti; The Puppet Master: The Complete Jiří Trnka, works by the renowned Czech animator; The Films of Gordon Parks, presented in conjunction with the exhibition Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early Work 1940–1950; Jean Vigo: Pioneer of Art Cinema, featuring restorations by the early French master; Animals in Japanese Cinema, organized to coincide with The Life of Animals in Japanese Art; Essential Cinema: Jonas Mekas and Barbara Hammer: Boundless, companion series presented as tributes to two pioneering American avant-garde filmmakers; Moons and Celestial Bodies, inspired by artists’ cinematic interpretations of the moon; and Reinventing Realism: New Cinema from Romania, devoted to the innovative art cinema of young filmmakers in Romania.
Resources for Scholarly Research
The Library added 5,580 books and 646 auction catalogs to its holdings in fiscal year 2019. The reader services department answered 3,097 inquiries, welcomed 1,100 new readers among 2,143 visitors, created 33,107 scans from its collections, and recorded 25,965 unique visits to its web pages. The department borrowed 2,529 items for Gallery and CASVA staff and loaned 1,407 titles to universities and public libraries in 46 states and 15 countries.
The library launched its third automated library system. Enhanced features include the ability to search the collections of the library and its image collections together in Mercury, the online catalog; advanced tracking for acquisitions and electronic resource licensing; and customizable functions for discovery and presentation of digital collections.
The department of image collections added 77,082 photographic images, including 8,125 photographs; 35,355 rare photographs, of which 1,560 are in 35 rare albums; 1,821 images in various formats; and more than 30,000 digital files, bringing the approximate total number of images held to 16 million. The department’s image specialists answered 956 reference inquiries and created 1,518 digital scans.
Several innovative programs designed to increase the library’s public profile and promote the full range of resources available proved successful. Library staff prepared instructional sessions for Gallery staff and devised pop-up libraries of relevant holdings to accompany public lectures and evening programs. The library hosted its first public Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon focused on African American artists represented in the Evans-Tibbs Collection.
Gallery Archives undertook numerous activities to enhance the preservation and discovery of archival holdings. The archives received transfers of records totaling 115 cubic feet of paper records and approximately 11,000 born digital files or 1,160 gigabytes of storage. In addition, the archives added 22,000 digital files reformatted from its paper records. Dorothy Vogel, Ruth Cole Kainen, and Leara Kuffer donated modest additions of papers.
Special initiatives included the digitization of the entire set of Gallery Board of Trustees records, ensuring the long-term preservation of these vital documents. In coordination with curatorial offices, multiyear projects related to the records of the Index of American Design and the comprehensive Kress Collection historical data advanced significantly. Both projects will result in the development of powerful online databases for public use. The archives received 650 inquiries from staff, external researchers, and the general public about the Gallery and its history. The Gallery’s first-ever media archivist, responsible for assessing and maintaining more than 25,000 sound and moving image recordings, began this year.
The study room for American prints and drawings in the West Building hosted 574 visitors, including 12 classes from seven universities; five classes from kindergarten through 12th grades; 18 groups of colleagues from other institutions; 10 appointments to study the Index of American Design; and 12 presentations for Gallery docents, interns, museum assistants, CASVA members, and donors.
The study room for European prints and drawings in the East Building hosted 1,150 visitors, including 28 classes from 14 universities, colleges, and high schools; 14 special groups; and 15 presentations for Gallery docents, interns, new staff, CASVA, and donors. Gallery curators conducted 35 of these presentations.
The publishing office launched two new NGA Online Editions this year: Italian Paintings of the Sixteenth Century and the Alfred Stieglitz Key Set, the first edition devoted to works from the Gallery’s photography collection. It includes 1,642 objects—approximately five times the combined number of objects in all other NGA Online Editions published to date. New entries were also added to Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The publishing office produced five book-length publications: three exhibition catalogs (The American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists, The Life of Animals in Japanese Art, and Verrocchio: Sculptor and Painter of Renaissance Florence), one CASVA volume (Center 39), and the fourth volume of the conservation journal Facture. The office also prepared exhibition brochures for Oliver Lee Jackson: Recent Paintings and three library installations. Four publications received awards. Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings won First Place (Illustrated Text) and Best of Show in the Washington Publishers Design Awards; was shortlisted for Photography Catalogue of the Year in the Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards; and was included in AIGA’s 50 Books | 50 Covers and the Association of University Presses Book, Jacket, and Journal Show. Outliers and American Vanguard Art won Second Place (Illustrated Text) in the Washington Publishers Design Awards. Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice and Corot: Women were featured in the Association of University Presses Book, Jacket, and Journal Show.
The imaging and visual services department continued to document the Gallery’s collections, creating master images for 1,810 objects, including 1,173 new acquisitions and 437 sculptures—completing the 30-month sculpture and photography project funded by the Samuel Kress Foundation. The department provided technical imaging for 62 conservation treatments, fulfilled 92 event photography requests, added 517 new open-access images to NGA Images and 5,423 images to the public website, and completed the migration and implementation of the Gallery’s eDAM.
The media production department continued to deliver creative, engaging media experiences, both live in the Gallery and across the digital landscape. The department supported 502 live events and streamed more than 30 of those to thousands of viewers. Online, audio programs garnered more than 622,000 plays; videos received 630,000 views. Keeping pace with the latest technology, the department upgraded the Lecture Hall and Sculpture Garden audio systems and led the construction of a mobile streaming production kit.
The Gallery launched a new mobile application to teach visitors more about the museum and its collection. An interactive map pinpoints user locations and presents fascinating stories behind the masterpieces visitors see in front of them. With more than 130 audio stops, 1,000 object descriptions from the Gallery’s curatorial team, and a list of must-see works, the app allows visitors to become their own guides.
Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts
The Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts welcomed fellows from China, Georgia, Italy, Nigeria, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Their topics of study ranged from forgery and counterforgery in early modern Chinese art to the 15th-century painter Pisanello, from representations of Napoleon Bonaparte to 19th-century Dakota art.
The Initiatives in African American Art and Scholarship yielded results across all the Center’s programs. Two seminars on the topic of Black Modernisms will result in the fourth volume of the Seminar Papers series, edited by Huey Copeland of Northwestern University and Steven Nelson of the University of California, Los Angeles, the current Andrew W. Mellon Professor. Richard Powell, Edmond J. Safra Visiting Professor, led a colloquy on the subject “Emancipation and the Freed” Revisited: Research, Exhibition, Interpretation. Professor Powell also gave a public lecture titled Resurrection and Respiration: Two Sculptures by Edmonia Lewis and Francesco Pezzicar.
Highlights from the program of special meetings and publications included the annual Middle Atlantic Symposium in the History of Art, cosponsored with the University of Maryland; a study day in connection with the exhibition The Chiaroscuro Woodcut in Renaissance Italy; and the biennial Wyeth Conference in American Art on The American Still Life. Carel van Tuyll van Serooskerken and Victor Stoichita featured in two additions to the series of audio and video recordings Reflections on the Collection: The Edmond J. Safra Visiting Professors at the National Gallery of Art. Stephen J. Campbell of Johns Hopkins University delivered the 22nd Sydney J. Freedberg Lecture, which was also released on the Gallery’s website. Maryan Ainsworth, curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was appointed the first Kress-Beinecke Professor in accordance with the new endowment of this position. Wu Hung of the University of Chicago delivered the 68th A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts on the topic End as Beginning: Chinese Art and Dynastic Time. The lectures, available on the Gallery website, will be published in Bollingen Series XXXV by Princeton University Press.
Three long-term research projects providing access to primary materials progress. Directed by the dean, the Malvasia project makes available an English translation and critical Italian edition of Carlo Cesare Malvasia’s Felsina pittrice (Bologna, 1678). Volume nine, The Life of Guido Reni, was published in spring 2019. The digital database for the History of Early American Landscape Design project, directed by associate dean Therese O’Malley, is undergoing a technical upgrade as the team incorporates feedback from a pilot phase. Associate dean Peter Lukehart has directed adding artist carousels featuring high-quality open-source images to The History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590–1635: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Roma.
For more on the Center’s programs, see the archive of annual reports.
Members of the division maintained leadership positions in local, national, and international organizations and presented at conferences, symposia, and workshops around the world. The division hosted interns, fellows, students, and senior researchers who came to acquire expertise from Gallery specialists. Collaborations with colleagues nationally and internationally brought many exciting opportunities to advance the field. Staff contributions to numerous journals, exhibition catalogs, and books describe recent advancements in understanding the artists’ materials and techniques, conservation methodologies, scientific analysis, and approaches to the technical study of works of art. The division published “Series, Multiples, Replicas,” the fourth volume of its biennial journal, Facture, in collaboration with colleagues from the Gallery and other institutions.
The conservation division engaged in a wide variety of projects to improve the understanding of the collection, protect it from chemical and physical harm, and present it to visitors in a manner intended to enhance their enjoyment and education. Conservators performed 73 major treatments, 802 minor treatments, 51 major examinations, 3,995 minor examinations, and 3,875 condition examinations for exhibitions. The matting and framing staff prepared 517 new mats, framed 778 works of art, constructed 50 display mounts and 197 storage enclosures, and assisted in 72 special installations. Conservation scientists examined more than 50 works of art in all media.
Several major treatments of works in the permanent collection involved rewarding collaborations. Among these was the treatment of Edouard Vuillard’s Place Vintimille, which began as a request to exhibit the five-part painting as it was originally meant to be displayed—as a folding screen. Conservators from the painting, textiles, paper, and preventive departments worked toward this objective, determining that it required a complex treatment and complicated frame support. The removal of old textile backings and mounts; extensive treatment of the five painted panels; and, finally, the design and fabrication of a substantial, articulated frame system allowed the remounting and re-installation of the screen in the French galleries. Conservators collaborated to treat H. C. Westermann’s sculpture The Plush, formerly in the Corcoran Collection. Westermann’s assemblage of diverse materials, combining shag carpet, metal pipe, and wooden elements, called upon skills from objects and textiles departments to clean and stabilize the sculpture for the retrospective H. C. Westermann Goin’ Home. Object conservators completed major treatment on the Collectors Committee gift, Ground Rules (black line) by Theaster Gates, in order to make the sculpture secure and presentable for installation in the East Building. Conservators consulted with the artist and curator to ensure approval of the treatment and preservation of the concept for the work. Paper and paintings conservators conferred on the appropriate long-term care and treatment of two newly acquired hunting trophies by Antoine Berjon, both executed in pastel on canvas prepared with thick gesso ground. The paintings conservator provided expertise on the preservation of the cracked ground while the paper conservator repaired scratches through the pastel. Photograph and paper conservators collaborated on the treatment of Ringlpitis, a volume of collages incorporating photographs and drawings by ringl + pit (Grete Stern and Ellen Auerbach).
Significant effort from conservators supported the Gallery’s loan program. Outgoing loan preparation required staff time to accommodate requests from institutions with differing display abilities. Many loans required treatment, custom mounts, frames, or specialized display environments, including 15 waterproof and microclimate packages for safe travel and display. Albrecht Dürer’s Triumphal Arch of Maximillian, which is composed of 44 printed sheets assembled to form one image, was lent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an important exhibition. Paper conservators and matting and framing staff prepared the artwork for the technically challenging transport and installation in New York.
Conservators and scientists contributed significantly to the Gallery’s exhibition program, assisting with the planning and implementation of 18 special exhibitions and gallery rotations. Several exhibitions and exhibition catalogs included content provided by conservation staff to enrich visitors’ understanding of the techniques and materials from which the art was created. The Touch of Color: Pastels at the National Gallery of Art featured a display that paper conservators developed to demonstrate the techniques, fragility, and special appeal of the pastel medium for artists and visitors alike. Examples from the Art Materials Research and Study Center’s collection along with touch-screen monitors complemented the works of art on display with an immediate resource for visitors. Paper conservators and framing staff completed numerous treatments and resolved special housing requirements in preparation for the pastels exhibition. Verrocchio: Sculptor and Painter of Renaissance Florence featured important collaborative research, including the first comprehensive study of the artist’s bronzes as part of a broader investigation of sculpture in all media and extraordinary new technical imaging of a crucial group of paintings. The findings, which offered deeper insights into the Renaissance master’s methodology, materials, and techniques, as well as the role of his workshop, were presented in three catalog essays and a focus web feature. The inclusion of Ginevra de’ Benci in the exhibition gave scientists a rare opportunity to capture new high-resolution, broad-spectrum images and the frame conservator the opportunity to build a recto-verso frame for an improved presentation of the painting.
Exhibitions presented conservators with complex challenges related to the safe transport, handling, and display of works of art. The successful installation of the extremely heavy and fragile plaster and resin sculptures by Rachel Whiteread required months of preparation. The Life of Animals in Japanese Art included nearly every type of material object, calling on the division’s expertise in textiles, metals, wooden objects, paper, photographs, and more to handle and display the artworks appropriately. Both exhibitions required Gallery conservators to travel to assist with transfer and installation at subsequent venues. Photograph conservators prepared for the exhibition of 140 photographs in The Eye of the Sun: Nineteenth-Century Photographs from the National Gallery of Art, which highlighted the Gallery’s rich holdings. Displaying numerous remarkable cased photographs, such as daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes, to their best advantage required extensive conservation, custom mounts, and skillful lighting. In anticipation of the upcoming exhibition, Vittore Carpaccio: Master Storyteller of Renaissance Venice treatment was prioritized for the artist’s work, The Virgin Reading (c. 1505). The painting had not been treated since it was acquired in 1939, and curators and conservators were eager to investigate the panel that had been cut at some point in the past. Analysis and treatment revealed the original rendering of the Christ Child, and new technical images yielded information about Carpaccio’s methods and materials that will be included in the exhibition catalog.
The conservation division has been involved in planning for forthcoming construction projects and improving the Gallery’s response to adverse events. The Deep Clean Project, the ongoing multidivisional effort initiated by the conservation division, continues to provide an opportunity to treat the collection while the galleries are closed for maintenance. Mary, Queen of Heaven by the Master of the Saint Lucy Legend was analyzed, cleaned, stabilized, and inpainted in a collaborative effort between the paintings and scientific research departments. In advance of the next phase of construction in the East Building, object and textile conservators worked with other divisions to prepare for the removal of the collection from the atrium to off-site storage and to devise ways of protecting the works that will remain in place during construction. Conservators worked with many divisions across the Gallery to develop a comprehensive plan for emergency response and collection recovery and developed a training program. Conservators also developed expanded training sessions to improve the preparation of couriers to better understand and assess the condition of works of art when they travel to borrowers’ facilities.
A grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the development of ConservationSpace has concluded after nine years, and the application is now in use by the division and partner institutions. Legacy documents were scanned, and to date, more than 70,000 have been uploaded to the database, where they will remain accessible and preserved for Gallery records. The Gallery’s photograph conservation department, another Mellon-sponsored program, achieved the ambitious goals outlined in the 2010 grant proposal. Now recognized as one of the leading photograph conservation programs worldwide, the department was honored to receive support from the Mellon foundation’s challenge grant in recognition of the Gallery’s 75th anniversary. This extraordinary tribute ensures that the museum’s photograph conservation program will endure, continuing to play a leadership role now and in the future. The Gallery was awarded a grant from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project for Conservation Revealed: The French Sculpture Project. Funding from this grant allows for the conservation of six marble sculptures to occur in the galleries where they are permanently exhibited, bringing conservation treatment directly to Gallery visitors to the East Sculpture Hall.
Next Chapter: Tresurer’s Report and Financial Statements