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Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art

Explore the highlights of 20th-century art through a series of lectures that illuminate the major movements associated with European and American modern art. The East Building opened in 1978 and inaugurated contemporary and modern art collecting at the National Gallery of Art. 

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. The East Building of the National Gallery of Art houses an impressive collection of modern sculptures displayed throughout its many levels. Henry Moore’s Knife Edge Mirror Two Piece, Anthony Caro’s National Gallery Ledge Piece, and the enormous mobile, Untitled, by Alexander Calder were commissioned for the opening of the building in 1978 and are prominently displayed at the entrance and in the atrium. Other large-scale works by Max Ernst, Andy Goldsworthy, Isamu Noguchi, Richard Serra, and David Smith are also found in the atrium. Throughout the upstairs galleries one can trace the history of 20th-century sculpture in parallel with the history of 20th-century painting. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff leads a tour of the Gallery’s modern sculptures in this lecture presented on August 30, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. The East Building of the National Gallery of Art houses an impressive collection of modern sculptures displayed throughout its many levels. Henry Moore’s Knife Edge Mirror Two Piece, Anthony Caro’s National Gallery Ledge Piece, and the enormous mobile, Untitled, by Alexander Calder were commissioned for the opening of the building in 1978 and are prominently displayed at the entrance and in the atrium. Other large-scale works by Max Ernst, Andy Goldsworthy, Isamu Noguchi, Richard Serra, and David Smith are also found in the atrium. Throughout the upstairs galleries one can trace the history of 20th-century sculpture in parallel with the history of 20th-century painting. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff leads a tour of the Gallery’s modern sculptures in this lecture presented on August 30, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

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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.

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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.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. In all of art history, only one movement dared to predict public and commercial success in its very name. The distinction is appropriate, because pop art was all about commerce and consumption from the beginning. Emerging in mid-1950s Great Britain and soon spreading to the United States, pop was a creature of the postwar boom, when television, advertising, fast food, birth rates, home appliances, and suburban sprawl were quickly changing daily life in the developed world. Works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Claes Oldenburg reflect a new syntax of imagery drawn from popular culture and mass media, devoid of exalted art historical themes and the personal expression that were hallmarks of abstract expressionist painting. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff considers the wide variety of objects, themes, and working methods that characterized pop art and the way it blurred distinctions between high art and popular culture. This lecture was presented on August 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. In all of art history, only one movement dared to predict public and commercial success in its very name. The distinction is appropriate, because pop art was all about commerce and consumption from the beginning. Emerging in mid-1950s Great Britain and soon spreading to the United States, pop was a creature of the postwar boom, when television, advertising, fast food, birth rates, home appliances, and suburban sprawl were quickly changing daily life in the developed world. Works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Claes Oldenburg reflect a new syntax of imagery drawn from popular culture and mass media, devoid of exalted art historical themes and the personal expression that were hallmarks of abstract expressionist painting. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff considers the wide variety of objects, themes, and working methods that characterized pop art and the way it blurred distinctions between high art and popular culture. This lecture was presented on August 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

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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.

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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.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art.
In the years following the Second World War Europe was exhausted and slow to recover. Historians often speak about a shift in the art world's center of gravity from Paris to New York as the abstract expressionists claimed the spotlight. But the late 1940s and 1950s were a fertile, if troubled, time for art in Europe as well. While the Americans believed that they could start from scratch, inventing new techniques and subjects, the Europeans, who had experienced the horrors of war on their own soil, took a darker view of rebirth. The postwar school of Paris engaged raw materials through the art brut expressions of Jean Dubuffet and the thickly encrusted abstractions of Pierre Soulages and Nicholas de Stael. Jean Fautrier tested the conventional limits of painting by mixing powdered pigments, sand, and plaster to create abstract equivalents of the violent dissociation of body and spirit. The existential anxiety of the moment was perhaps best captured by the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, who obsessively subtracted clay from his figures until they loomed up like monuments on the point of disappearance. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff discusses European art and artists in the aftermath of the Second World War. This lecture was presented on August 16, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art.
In the years following the Second World War Europe was exhausted and slow to recover. Historians often speak about a shift in the art world's center of gravity from Paris to New York as the abstract expressionists claimed the spotlight. But the late 1940s and 1950s were a fertile, if troubled, time for art in Europe as well. While the Americans believed that they could start from scratch, inventing new techniques and subjects, the Europeans, who had experienced the horrors of war on their own soil, took a darker view of rebirth. The postwar school of Paris engaged raw materials through the art brut expressions of Jean Dubuffet and the thickly encrusted abstractions of Pierre Soulages and Nicholas de Stael. Jean Fautrier tested the conventional limits of painting by mixing powdered pigments, sand, and plaster to create abstract equivalents of the violent dissociation of body and spirit. The existential anxiety of the moment was perhaps best captured by the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, who obsessively subtracted clay from his figures until they loomed up like monuments on the point of disappearance. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff discusses European art and artists in the aftermath of the Second World War. This lecture was presented on August 16, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. 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.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. 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.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. The most daring development in early 20th-century modern art was the step into abstraction—the decision to make paintings that were not pictures of the visible world but just . . . paintings. Abstraction elicited both excitement and anxiety. Painters looked to new sources for the kind of structure that direct observation had once provided: music; the logic of geometry; the forces of emotion and spirituality; the material facts of paint and canvas; and scientific developments that revealed new ways to “see” the world, from X-rays to Einstein’s theory of special relativity. Artists from several countries hoped that abstraction might become a lingua franca, transcending cultural differences. While that did not quite happen, the energies unleashed by abstraction were far-reaching, as works by Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Constantin Brancusi confirm. Abstraction was truly the art of the future. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the birth of abstraction in early 20th-century art. This lecture was presented on August 9, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. The most daring development in early 20th-century modern art was the step into abstraction—the decision to make paintings that were not pictures of the visible world but just . . . paintings. Abstraction elicited both excitement and anxiety. Painters looked to new sources for the kind of structure that direct observation had once provided: music; the logic of geometry; the forces of emotion and spirituality; the material facts of paint and canvas; and scientific developments that revealed new ways to “see” the world, from X-rays to Einstein’s theory of special relativity. Artists from several countries hoped that abstraction might become a lingua franca, transcending cultural differences. While that did not quite happen, the energies unleashed by abstraction were far-reaching, as works by Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Constantin Brancusi confirm. Abstraction was truly the art of the future. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the birth of abstraction in early 20th-century art. This lecture was presented on August 9, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. At the turn of the 20th century Germany and Austria were full of volatile contradictions. They were modernizing rapidly yet maintained deeply conservative values. This was fertile ground for the birth of German and Austrian expressionism, represented by the paintings of Max Beckmann, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Franz Marc, Emil Nolde, and Egon Schiele, among others. A gift from the Arnold and Joan Saltzman Collection has transformed the National Gallery of Art’s holdings of German and Austrian expressionist art. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the vital role that German and Austrian expressionism played in the opening decades of the 20th century. This lecture was presented on July 26, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. At the turn of the 20th century Germany and Austria were full of volatile contradictions. They were modernizing rapidly yet maintained deeply conservative values. This was fertile ground for the birth of German and Austrian expressionism, represented by the paintings of Max Beckmann, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Franz Marc, Emil Nolde, and Egon Schiele, among others. A gift from the Arnold and Joan Saltzman Collection has transformed the National Gallery of Art’s holdings of German and Austrian expressionist art. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the vital role that German and Austrian expressionism played in the opening decades of the 20th century. This lecture was presented on July 26, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. After shattering representational tradition with cubism, which he developed with Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso became the artistic visionary against whom most others measured their creativity throughout the 20th century. Born in Málaga, Spain, in 1881, Picasso attended art schools and aligned his sensibilities with bohemian writers and artists in Barcelona and Madrid. After early work inspired by El Greco, symbolism, and the sinuous curvatures of art nouveau, Picasso began to find his own vision. The art he made from 1905 to 1915 unleashed a torrent of originality culminating in the birth of cubism, among the 20th century’s most revolutionary art movements. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the contributions made to 20th-century modernism by Picasso, Braque, and their peers. This lecture was presented on July 24, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. After shattering representational tradition with cubism, which he developed with Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso became the artistic visionary against whom most others measured their creativity throughout the 20th century. Born in Málaga, Spain, in 1881, Picasso attended art schools and aligned his sensibilities with bohemian writers and artists in Barcelona and Madrid. After early work inspired by El Greco, symbolism, and the sinuous curvatures of art nouveau, Picasso began to find his own vision. The art he made from 1905 to 1915 unleashed a torrent of originality culminating in the birth of cubism, among the 20th century’s most revolutionary art movements. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the contributions made to 20th-century modernism by Picasso, Braque, and their peers. This lecture was presented on July 24, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

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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.

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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.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. As a teacher at the New York School of Art in the early 20th century, Robert Henri urged his to reject genteel subjects in favor of gritty depictions of urban life. George Bellows, Edward Hopper, and John Sloan typify the range of personalities and artistic styles in Henri’s first crop of students. Alfred Stieglitz, Henri’s contemporary, is best known as an early promoter and practitioner of photography as a fine art. He was also a champion of modern painting and sculpture. From 1908 to 1917 his gallery, 291 (named for its address on Fifth Avenue), introduced New York audiences to new European art movements and new American artists. Stieglitz’s promotion of photography had two opposing effects on painting. Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, and others felt liberated by photography’s realism, which allowed them to invent bold styles of painterly abstraction. “Precisionists” such as Charles Sheeler, by contrast, began to emulate the sharp detail of photography and to take photographs themselves. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the contributions made to modern American art by Henri, Stieglitz, their students and followers. This lecture was presented on July 17, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. As a teacher at the New York School of Art in the early 20th century, Robert Henri urged his to reject genteel subjects in favor of gritty depictions of urban life. George Bellows, Edward Hopper, and John Sloan typify the range of personalities and artistic styles in Henri’s first crop of students. Alfred Stieglitz, Henri’s contemporary, is best known as an early promoter and practitioner of photography as a fine art. He was also a champion of modern painting and sculpture. From 1908 to 1917 his gallery, 291 (named for its address on Fifth Avenue), introduced New York audiences to new European art movements and new American artists. Stieglitz’s promotion of photography had two opposing effects on painting. Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, and others felt liberated by photography’s realism, which allowed them to invent bold styles of painterly abstraction. “Precisionists” such as Charles Sheeler, by contrast, began to emulate the sharp detail of photography and to take photographs themselves. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the contributions made to modern American art by Henri, Stieglitz, their students and followers. This lecture was presented on July 17, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. In this lecture presented on July 10, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores works by a group of like-minded artists who sought to push painting to new levels of abstraction, decoration, and expression. Active in 1890s Paris, they called themselves Les Nabis, Hebrew for “prophets.” Among the leaders of the group were Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard. Their works are intimate in both scale and subject, capturing scenes from the artists’ daily lives. Bonnard and Henri Matisse, were later drawn to the bright light of southern France. On the French Riviera as well as in the Normandy countryside Bonnard painted vibrant landscapes in molten colors stitched together by dabs and dashes, squiggles and scrolls. Matisse spent most of the 1920s in the Mediterranean city of Nice, where he reveled in clashing arabesques and patterns, often of Moroccan inspiration, raked by strong light. The lecture concludes with a brief overview of the art of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in the years after the First World War. This presentation was part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. Born in northern Italy, Amedeo Modigliani moved to Paris in 1906 at the age of 21 to immerse himself in the art of the day. His hero, Paul Cézanne, died the same year, and a retrospective in 1907 impressed the young artist: in his pocket he kept a picture of Cézanne’s Boy in a Red Waistcoat. Like Pablo Picasso, to whom he often compared himself, Modigliani was drawn to non-Western art, including Khmer and Egyptian works. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, this presentation by senior lecturer David Gariff on July 12, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, discusses portraits of Modigliani’s fellow painter Chaim Soutine; Léon Bakst, designer for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes; and Renée Kisling, wife of the painter Moïse Kisling. Most of the paintings referenced were acquired by Chester Dale, a founding benefactor of the National Gallery of Art, whose 1963 bequest transformed the museum’s modern art collection. His wife Maud mounted exhibitions of Modigliani’s work and published one of the first scholarly monographs on the artist in 1929. This presentation was part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art.

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David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. Born in northern Italy, Amedeo Modigliani moved to Paris in 1906 at the age of 21 to immerse himself in the art of the day. His hero, Paul Cézanne, died the same year, and a retrospective in 1907 impressed the young artist: in his pocket he kept a picture of Cézanne’s Boy in a Red Waistcoat. Like Pablo Picasso, to whom he often compared himself, Modigliani was drawn to non-Western art, including Khmer and Egyptian works. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, this presentation by senior lecturer David Gariff on July 12, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, discusses portraits of Modigliani’s fellow painter Chaim Soutine; Léon Bakst, designer for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes; and Renée Kisling, wife of the painter Moïse Kisling. Most of the paintings referenced were acquired by Chester Dale, a founding benefactor of the National Gallery of Art, whose 1963 bequest transformed the museum’s modern art collection. His wife Maud mounted exhibitions of Modigliani’s work and published one of the first scholarly monographs on the artist in 1929. This presentation was part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art.

video

David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. In this lecture presented on July 10, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores works by a group of like-minded artists who sought to push painting to new levels of abstraction, decoration, and expression. Active in 1890s Paris, they called themselves Les Nabis, Hebrew for “prophets.” Among the leaders of the group were Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard. Their works are intimate in both scale and subject, capturing scenes from the artists’ daily lives. Bonnard and Henri Matisse, were later drawn to the bright light of southern France. On the French Riviera as well as in the Normandy countryside Bonnard painted vibrant landscapes in molten colors stitched together by dabs and dashes, squiggles and scrolls. Matisse spent most of the 1920s in the Mediterranean city of Nice, where he reveled in clashing arabesques and patterns, often of Moroccan inspiration, raked by strong light. The lecture concludes with a brief overview of the art of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in the years after the First World War. This presentation was part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art.