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Recent Acquisition Highlights

In 80 years of its existence the National Gallery of Art has amassed one of the world’s most significant collections of American and European masterworks of paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, prints, drawings, and photographs. Beginning with a selection of 126 paintings and 26 sculptures given by the National Gallery’s founder Andrew W. Mellon, the collection has grown to more than 145,000 works today.

The National Gallery’s treasures come from many diverse times and places of origin and each work of art in the permanent collection is a private donation, acquired either directly or with contributed funds. Listed below are some of the most important recent additions to the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Art.

2021 Highlights

Faith Ringgold, The American People Series #18: The Flag is Bleeding

Faith Ringgold, The American People Series #18: The Flag is Bleeding, 1967, oil on canvas, 182.88 x 243.84 cm (72 x 96 in.), Gift of Glenstone Foundation and Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2021.28.1

The National Gallery of Art has acquired The American People Series #18: The Flag is Bleeding (1967), its first painting by Faith Ringgold (b. 1930). This pivotal work by a leading figure of contemporary art exemplifies the artist’s skill in using art as a vehicle to question the social dynamics of race, gender, and power. As a visual storyteller, Ringgold is known for her thought-provoking depictions of the difficult realities of the American experience. The painting was acquired with funds gifted by Glenstone Foundation and from the Patrons’ Permanent Fund. On view through October 24, 2021, at Glenstone Museum, the work is scheduled to appear in Ringgold's retrospective at the New Museum in New York from February 17 to June 5, 2022.

“This may well be the most important purchase of a single work of contemporary art since the National Gallery acquired Jackson Pollock’s No. 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist) in 1976,” said Harry Cooper, senior curator and head of the department of modern and contemporary art.

For Ringgold, the American flag is a potent and powerful symbol. She has said, “The flag is the only truly subversive and revolutionary abstraction one can paint.” This painting is part of her first fully developed body of work, The American People Series (1963–1967). Considered to be among her most powerful series, it features unflinching and often puzzling depictions of the racial tensions and political divisions in the United States during the 1960s.

The Flag is Bleeding examines American identity and history in and through an iconic depiction of the flag, one of Ringgold’s signature motifs. The painting features a semitransparent US flag with colors that appear to bleed or run as a bold backdrop to the ambiguous interactions of three figures—a Black man, a white woman, and a white man—who stand with arms linked. The Black man, who holds a knife with one hand and covers his bleeding heart with the other, simultaneously protects the wound and pledges allegiance to the flag. The vague and shifting relationships of the figures speak to the violent protests in Los Angeles, Detroit, Washington, DC, and elsewhere during the politically turbulent era of the civil rights and antiwar movements of the late 1960s.

Ringgold is a painter, mixed-media sculptor, performance artist, writer, teacher, and lecturer whose multifaceted career spans six decades and encompasses a variety of media: paintings, prints, collages, drawings, sculpture, textiles, and children’s books. Her works explore many themes—the race, gender, and class in the United States, as well as history, memory, family, community, and popular culture—all conveyed in a simplified representational style that she has termed “Super Realism.” Ringgold received her BS degree in fine arts and education and MA in fine arts from the City College of New York and is a professor emeritus of art at the University of California in San Diego. After struggling for many years to gain proper recognition in the art world, she has been acclaimed as one of the leading artists of our time, receiving more than 80 awards and honors, including 23 honorary doctorates.

Throughout her career, Ringgold has been driven by a commitment to political change and an interest in world art. During the early 1960s, she created her first political paintings, The American People Series (1963–1967), and had her first and second one-person exhibitions at Spectrum Gallery in New York. In the early 1970s, Ringgold began making tankas (inspired by the Tibetan art form of paintings framed in richly brocaded fabrics), soft sculptures, and masks. She later used this medium in her masked performances of the 1970s and 1980s. Inspired by African art during the 1960s, it was not until the late 1970s that she traveled to Nigeria and Ghana to see the rich tradition of masks that have continued to be a great influence.

William Kentridge, City Deep

William Kentridge, City Deep, 2020, single-channel digital video, black and white animation with color additions, sound, 9:15 minutes , Purchased jointly by the National Gallery of Art, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund, 2021.20.1

The National Gallery of Art has acquired its first video by William Kentridge (b. 1955) in a historic joint purchase with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. City Deep (2020) is the eleventh video in the cycle that Kentridge devoted to his antihero Soho Eckstein, a mining magnate with a love of art. This work joins several others by Kentridge in the collection, including a set of prints given by Thomas G. Klarner in 2005 and Portage (2000), leperello (accordion-fold book) donated by the Collectors Committee, Sylvia K. Greenberg, and Cathryn Dickert Scoville in 2014.

City Deep explores the physical and historical environment of the Johannesburg Art Gallery. As the video begins, rows of anonymous modern apartment blocks provide a bleak backdrop, while in front, sunken train tracks carve a gash in the landscape. The art gallery is surrounded by disused shafts worked by the so-called zama-zama miners hoping to strike a bit of overlooked gold. As Soho Eckstein, the pin-striped mining magnate, contemplates the works of art in the gallery and daydreams of past loves, the boundary between the museum and the mine dissolves: a shaft opens in the floor of the gallery and the paintings on the wall transform. In a climactic moment, Soho, confronted with the racist and settler-colonialist sources of his wealth and culture, locks eyes with a miner, after which the museum falls to dust.

Depicting the city of Kentridge’s youth and of his imagination, the video’s stop-action animations are drawn, erased, and redrawn in charcoal with red-ink accents characteristic of his signature style. The pentimenti, or shadows of erased charcoal left when a figure moves across the screen, serve as a metaphor for a haunted past that can never be denied. Kentridge states: “The smudges of erasure thicken time in the film, but they also serve as a record of the days and months spent making the film—a record of thinking in slow motion.”

Edward Mitchell Bannister, Palmer River

Edward Mitchell Bannister, Palmer River, 18851885

Edward Mitchell Bannister, Palmer River, 1885, oil on canvas, Purchased as the Gift of Anonymous, 2021.11.1

Edward Mitchell Bannister (c. 1828–1901), an African American artist who worked in Boston during the 1860s and in Providence, Rhode Island, following the Civil War, is now recognized as a key figure in the history of American landscape painting. The National Gallery has acquired Palmer River (1885), one of Bannister’s most accomplished paintings. It is the first work by the artist to enter the collection.

Privately owned since the 19th century, the painting features a shoreline view of the Palmer River, which flows south through Rhode Island near Providence. Dipping low over the calm waters of the river, a distinctive band of clouds renders the work as much a study of weather as of landscape.

Denied access to formal training because of his race, Bannister supported himself as a barber and photographer until the mid-1860s when he gained admission to sculptor William Rimmer’s evening drawing class—his first formal training. Shortly thereafter, he secured space in the Studio Building in Boston where he worked alongside professional artists including John La Farge and Elihu Vedder. Inspired by the work of William Morris Hunt, whose Barbizon-influenced paintings were frequently on view in Boston, Bannister began to explore landscape painting. 

Actively involved in the abolitionist movement in Boston during the 1850s and 1860s, Bannister moved to Providence following the war. During the final years of his career he focused almost exclusively on the pastoral landscapes for which he is best known today.

Rozeal (formerly known as iona rozeal brown), SONG OF SOLOMON 5:16 – BE BEEWORLD: BE B BOY B GIRL (after “Emperor Xuanzong and Yang Gueifei playing the same flute” by Utamaro Kitagawa)

Rozeal (formerly known as iona rozeal brown), SONG OF SOLOMON 5:16 – BE BEEWORLD: BE B BOY B GIRL (after “Emperor Xuanzong and Yang Gueifei playing the same flute,” by Utamaro Kitagawa), 2014 - 20162014 - 2016

Rozeal (formerly known as iona rozeal brown), SONG OF SOLOMON 5:16 – BE BEEWORLD: BE B BOY B GIRL (after “Emperor Xuanzong and Yang Gueifei playing the same flute,” by Utamaro Kitagawa), 2014 - 2016, mixed media on wood panel, Gift of Giorgio Furioso and William A. Clark Fund, 2021.19.1

The National Gallery of Art has acquired SONG OF SOLOMON 5:16 – BE BEEWORLD: BE B BOY B GIRL (after “Emperor Xuanzong and Yang Gueifei playing the same flute” by Utamaro Kitagawa) (2014–2016) by artist Rozeal (formerly known as Iona Rozeal Brown) (b. 1966). The large-scale work was inspired by a Japanese woodblock print which the artist deftly treated with her signature combination of Asian and African American cross-cultural referents to race, class, and gender.

Rozeal often points to her strong childhood memories of attending Chinese New Year celebrations in Washington, DC’s Chinatown and going to Kabuki theater performances at the Kennedy Center with her family. Her primary inspiration for this painting came from a Japanese Edo-era print by Utamaro Kitagawa (1753–1806) of a legendary Tang Dynasty couple, Emperor Xuanzong and Yang Gueifei. She incorporates various hip-hop references such as dreadlocks, coiled hair adorned with Cuban-link chains, conjoined headsets, and combined Asian and African American facial features depicted in the figures’ masks. The inclusion of the Bible verse from the Song of Solomon alludes to her interest in amorous couples: “His mouth is sweetness itself. He is altogether lovely” (5:16). The reference to “Beeworld” in the title is a meditation on the “troubles of bees” represented in the background by a hive-like pattern between the figures. “B BOY B GIRL” calls out the dance battles in hip-hop culture and Rozeal’s practice as a DJ. 

Part of Rozeal’s series of “Afro-Asiatic Allegories,” SONG OF SOLOMON contains many of her characteristic motifs. In the upper half of the painting, large abstract discs created using music speakers in various sizes are edged with a repeated Bible verse from the Gospel of John, “The flesh counts for nothing” (6:63). Above the discs are paint drips that run from the edge of the discs to the top of the painting. In the lower half, the two lovers are intimately entwined in pearls and headsets. Their hands gently hold the other’s outward headset while their internal headsets are wired together. 

This painting is the second work by the artist to enter the National Gallery collection, joining afro.died, T. (2011).

Joe Minter, Unlocked Chain

Joe Minter, Unlocked Chain, 19981998

Joe Minter, Unlocked Chain, 1998, metal and chain, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, 2021.18.1

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Joe Minter (b. 1943) is one of the principal artists represented in the collection of Souls Grown Deep Foundation and one of the remaining living artists of the group. In 2020, the National Gallery of Art acquired from the foundation 40 works by 21 African American artists from the southern United States. Following this major acquisition, Souls Grown Deep Foundation generously gifted the National Gallery with Minter’s powerful sculpture Unlocked Chain (1998).

An iconic welding of girders and chains, Unlocked Chain is an outstanding example of what Minter calls “message pieces,” works he began to create around 1992–1993 to explore ideas about life, human relations, and nature. These message pieces relate to the core of his art, a larger project titled African Village in America—an assemblage on his property that examines the Middle Passage, the history of slavery, and such recent tragedies such as the Sandy Hook shooting and Hurricane Katrina, often with strong Christian messages.

Describing Unlocked Chain, Minter said, “A chain can be something used to secure; it can work for you in all directions. It doesn’t need to be used just to shackle. A chain has a life of its own. It lasts past the man. It has been used by many men. There’s a lot of spirits within that chain.”

Two Works by JoAnn Verburg

JoAnn Verburg, 3 x THREE, 2019, inkjet print, image/sheet (each): 126.05 x 88.9 cm (49 5/8 x 35 in.), overall: 126.05 x 266.7 cm (49 5/8 x 105 in.), Gift of Kaywin Feldman, Beverly Grossman, Diane and David Lilly, Nivin MacMillan, and Sheila Morgan, 2021.14.1.a-c

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JoAnn Verburg, WTC, 2003, chromogenic print, image/sheet: 102.24 x 71.76 cm (40 1/4 x 28 1/4 in.), Charina Endowment Fund, 2021.13.11

The National Gallery of Art has recently acquired two important photographs by JoAnn Verburg, 3 x Three (2019) and WTC (2003). The first works by Verburg to enter the National Gallery’s collection, they show how she seeks to capture extended moments of time in her art, a theme that she has explored since the 1970s.

Best known for her work from the mid-1990s onward that depicts olive groves in Spoletto, Italy, Verburg has written that when she's making her photographs, she often torques the image, "squeezing and stretching it . . . into being more lively or wacky or improbable." In the triptych 3 x Three, she creates a sense of motion in the olive groves’ branches and leaves, as if a breeze were blowing. Verburg made multiple panels, each a slightly different view of the same subject, giving viewers the sense that they are moving through the space, discovering it with her.

In WTC Verburg photographed her husband in a scene that evokes a sense of calm relaxation, a quiet Sunday spent reading the newspaper. On the front of the paper the viewer sees two faint, identically sized skyscrapers—images that, for many people, immediately conjure the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in New York City, destroyed by terrorists on September 11, 2001.

The headlines, "The Week in Review," "What Would Victory Mean?" and "The Clamor of a Free People" on the front page, "Before and After" on the back, point to that pivotal event as a moment of profound change. The dichotomies that Verburg explores in this image—between the personal and the sociocultural, the interior and the exterior—illustrate both the responsibility and the struggle that human beings face in integrating external events into their daily lives.

Carrie Mae Weems, Echoes for Marian

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Carrie Mae Weems, Echoes for Marian, 2014, chromogenic print, image: 127 x 127 cm (50 x 50 in.), sheet: 182.88 x 152.4 cm (72 x 60 in.), framed: 186.69 x 156.21 cm (73 1/2 x 61 1/2 in.), Gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, 2021.8.1

Celebrated for her ability to explore issues of race, class, gender, power, and injustice with eloquent insight and passionate conviction, Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953) often uses the past to shine a light on the present. In her photograph Echoes for Marian (2014), Weems depicts herself standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, showing how architecture can not only exude a sense of power but also reinforce it. Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder recently gave Echoes for Marian to the National Gallery of Art.

The work’s title alludes to Marian Anderson, the African American opera singer who, in 1939 during the era of racial segregation, was barred by the Daughters of the American Revolution from performing in front of an integrated audience at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, because of her race. With support of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson instead sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Weems recalls this seminal moment in the quest for civil rights not only through her choice of location and title, but also through her pose and clothing—all of which evoke Anderson, whose courage and determination paved the way for future generations of African American artists. Commissioned by the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies (FAPE), Weems made Echoes for Marian to hang in a US embassy, visible evidence to the world at large of the nation’s history of segregation.

The National Gallery has a large collection of Weems’s work made between 1990 and 2017. This photograph, with its powerful reference to the iconic architecture that defines Washington, DC, is the first example of Weems’s photographs of monuments to enter the collection.

Friedrich Sustris, Euterpe (Personification of Music)

Friedrich Sustris, Euterpe (Personification of Music), 1569/15731569/1573

Friedrich Sustris, Euterpe (Personification of Music), 1569/1573, pen and black ink with gray wash, heightened with white gouache, on gray-green laid paper squared in black chalk, Ruth and Jacob Kainen Memorial Acquisition Fund, 2021.15.1

The National Gallery of Art has recently acquired Euterpe (Personification of Music) (1569/1573), an outstanding drawing by Friedrich Sustris (c. 1540–1599). Created shortly after Sustris’s arrival in what is now modern Germany, the work exemplifies his broad stylistic knowledge and refinement. It joins two other drawings by the artist in the collection: The Baptism of Christ (probably 1580s) and An Elaborate Altar with the Resurrection of Christ and the Martyrdom of Saint Andrew (1570/1580).

Of Netherlandish origin but born in Padua, Italy, Sustris trained with his father, Lambert, a painter in Titian’s circle. He worked briefly in Rome and went on to spent four years in the painter Giorgio Vasari’s studio in Florence. His first decorative project was in the Fugger Palace (1568–1573) for a powerful banking family in Augsburg, Germany.

One of the very few studies that can be directly connected to that project, the drawing depicts Euterpe, the muse of music, holding a lyre and organ pipes. Sustris combined Italianate iconography with a technique reminiscent of Vasari and an extreme refinement of form found in works by Parmigianino. This drawing provides evidence of the original appearance and rare beauty of the fresco cycle, which was badly damaged in World War II.

Authur Wesley Dow, Marsh Creek

Arthur Wesley Dow, Marsh Creek, c. 1914c. 1914

Arthur Wesley Dow, Marsh Creek, c. 1914, color woodcut on laid paper, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 2021.16.1

Best known for his innovative color woodcuts, Arthur Wesley Dow (1857–1922) was an accomplished painter, printmaker, and photographer and a central figure in the American arts and crafts movement. His influential manual Composition (first published in 1899) expounded his artistic theory based on Japanese design principles and significantly altered the development of art instruction in the United States. Among the most notable modernists who were inspired by Dow’s teachings are Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986) and Max Weber (1881–1961). The National Gallery of Art has acquired Marsh Creek (c. 1914)—its first color woodcut by Dow—which captures the experience of a coastal landscape at dusk. This print exemplifies the artist’s simplification of forms using a flat, decorative approach and focusing on the essential elements of line, color, and tone and the harmonious arrangement of light and dark areas within a composition. Marsh Creek joins two photographs by Dow already in the collection.

Two Works by Rosie Lee Tompkins

Rosie Lee Tompkins, Irene Bankhead, Untitled (framed half-squares four patch), 1989 (pieced); 1990 (quilted)1989 (pieced); 1990 (quilted)

Rosie Lee Tompkins, Irene Bankhead, Untitled (framed half-squares four patch), 1989 (pieced); 1990 (quilted), corduroy and velveteen, Gift of Stephanie Soldner and Garrett Sullivan Family, 2021.10.1

Rosie Lee Tompkins (1936–2006) was a celebrated artist who created irregularly shaped quilt tops that she valued for their visual and spiritual qualities rather than their functional qualities. The National Gallery has recently been given two outstanding examples of Tompkins's quilts, one from Anthony and Celeste Meier and another from Stephanie Soldner and the Garrett Sullivan family.

Tompkins preferred to piece her designs herself, leaving others to complete the work. Her undated quilt Untitled features a limited palette with prominent dangling ties that create an insistent and inventive rhythm. Untitled (framed half-squares four patch), created in 1989, includes brightly colored pieces of corduroy fabric arranged in variations on traditional patterns. Irene Bankhead, one of Tompkins's primary assistants, finished and quilted this work in 1990.

These two quilts are the first works by Tompkins to enter the collection, and they complement the National Gallery's acquisition of nine Gee's Bend quilts from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in 2020.

Christopher Wool, Untitled

detail-christopher-wool-untitled

Christopher Wool, Untitled, 2017, bronze and copper-plated steel, 194.04 x 206.04 x 75 in., weight: approximately 4535.92 kg (10,000 lbs), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Christopher Wool in memory of Dr. Glorye Wool and Dr. Ira Wool and the Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2021.12.1, © 2017 Christopher Wool, All rights reserved

The National Gallery has acquired its first sculpture by Christopher Wool (b. 1955). Untitled (2017) will be installed in the Sculpture Garden in early summer 2021. The work’s serpentine lines are a careful compositional choice that reflects Wool’s recent gestural paintings. Given to the National Gallery in honor of Wool’s parents, this sculpture joins the artist’s color screenprint My House (2000) in the National Gallery’s collection.

For more than 30 years, Wool has pursued his career as a painter with focus and intensity, working almost entirely in black and white, reflecting the urban grit of his New York surroundings by using either large stenciled words or by exploring abstract lines, shapes, and patterns. Since 2007 Wool has been living part-time in Marfa, Texas, where he began to make sculptures inspired by tangles of old fencing and hay-baling wire that he finds on his property. He uses the wire to create small maquettes, some of which are then subjected to an elaborate process of 3D-scanning, computer-aided enlargement, and fabrication using metal alloys engineered for structural integrity.

Robert Adams, Longmont, Colorado, Sally in the Backyard

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Robert Adams, Longmont, Colorado, Sally in the Backyard, 1981, gelatin silver print, image: 15 x 15 cm (5 7/8 x 5 7/8 in.), sheet: 35.4 x 27.7 cm (13 15/16 x 10 7/8 in.), Gift of Jeffrey Fraenkel and Alan Mark, 2020.115.1.1

Over the last few decades, Robert Adams (b. 1937) has published several small and intensely personal books of photographs that focus on the quieter moments of daily existence that can bring joy and meaning to our lives. A full set of gelatin silver prints from I Hear the Leaves and Love the Light (published 1999), among the first of these books, has recently been given to the National Gallery of Art by Jeffrey Fraenkel and Alan Mark. The series comprises 33 photographs made between 1982 and 1992 of Sally, a West Highland terrier, and the simple pleasures that she and her human companions—Robert and Kerstin Adams—found in the sanctuary of their backyard. Emphasizing their mutual joy, the pictures alternate between depicting the photographer’s point of view and Sally’s, producing results that are simultaneously amusing, insightful, specific, and universal. It is the second complete series of prints from a book by Adams to be given to the National Gallery, alongside Tenancy (published 2017), a recent gift from Stephen G. Stein.

Significant Collection of Photographs from Stephen G. Stein

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Romare Bearden, 110th Street Harlem Blues, 1972, collage on paper, 43.18 x 60.96 cm (17 x 24 in.), Promised Gift of Stephen G. Stein Employee Benefit Trust, Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, New York

The National Gallery of Art announced today that Stephen G. Stein has given the museum a superb collection of 161 photographs that includes some of the most admired artists in the history of photography. He has also pledged two works by Romare Bearden and Andrew LaMar Hopkins. These works—66 of which were previously promised to the National Gallery—significantly enhance the museum’s photography collection and are distinguished by the quality, importance, and rarity of the prints.

Gift Highlights

One highlight from the notable 19th-century photographs in Stein’s gift is Gustave Le Gray’s Troncs d’arbres, Fontainebleau (Tree Trunks, Fontainebleau) (1855), which demonstrates his mastery of the wet collodion negative process that enabled him to capture the play of light and shadow on trees in the forest of Fontainebleau. Andrew Joseph Russell’s Rebel Rifle Pits, Bull Run (1863), an image that speaks to the profound impact that the Civil War had on the eastern American landscape, is among the most important additions to the National Gallery’s holdings of 19th-century American photographs.

Four photographs by Eugène Atget made from 1898 to 1924, including Saint-Cloud. Fin août, 6 1/2 h (Saint-Cloud. End of August, 6:30 a.m.) (1924), are among the stellar works by 20th-century European photographers included in the gift. Other distinguished additions include Bill Brandt’s After the Celebration (1934), which depicts the artist’s brother-in-law as an inebriated man leaning against a lamppost in the London fog, and Brassaï’s Une “fille” dans le quartier d’Italie (Streetwalker near the Place d’Italie, Paris) (1932), which portrays a sex worker seen from behind on the streets of Paris.

Some highlights of works by 20th- and 21st-century American photographers included in this gift are William Eggleston’s Sumner, Mississippi, Cassidy Bayou in the Background (1972), which poignantly alludes to the racial segregation in the South, and Robert Frank’s vintage print Store Window—Washington D.C. (January 1957), made on the eve of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inauguration and the last picture Frank took for his celebrated book The Americans. Among the five remarkable photographs by Edward Weston are Dunes at Oceano (1936), which depicts the sinuous lines of the ever-shifting sand dunes at Oceano Dunes Natural Preserve; Abandoned Car, Crescent Beach (1938), which features the remains of a car on a California beach; and Surf, North Coast (1937), a nearly abstract picture from what Weston termed an “epic series of photographs of the West.” 

The donation also includes several outstanding pictures made by mid-20th-century practitioners often associated with the New York School, a loosely defined group of photographers based in New York who embraced a more experimental and subjective approach to recording the city. These include significant pictures by Diane Arbus, Louis Faurer, Sid Grossman, Leon Levinstein, Helen Levitt, and Lisette Model. Other highlights are three photographs by Sally Mann—Battlefields, Antietam (Trenches) (2001), Jessie #25 (2004), and Virginia #6 (2004), all of which were featured in the National Gallery’s exhibition Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings (March 4–May 28, 2018)—and Chuck Close’s Study for “Keith /4 Times” (1975), comprised of four gelatin silver prints with annotations in graphite mounted on foam core with masking tape.

Stein has also given the National Gallery a portfolio of photographs by Lewis Baltz called 89/91 (Sites of Technology) (1989–1991, printed 2006), in which the artist examines how technology has transformed our work environments, and the only complete set of photographs from Robert Adams’s 2015 series Tenancy, which eloquently reminds us that we are only temporary occupants of the land that nourishes and sustains us.

Promised Gift Highlights

Among the gifts that Stein has pledged to the National Gallery is Romare Bearden’s collage 110th Street Harlem Blues (1972). A vibrant mixture of gouache on paper, photographs, halftone reproductions, and masking tape, it reveals the vitality of Harlem’s African American community. Also promised to the National Gallery is a work by artist and antiquarian Andrew LaMar Hopkins, who paints imagined scenes conjuring the life of free Creoles of color in antebellum New Orleans, the city where he lives and works. Self-portrait of the Artist as Désirée (2019), a small, colorful image, depicts the artist dressed and made up as his female alter ego.

Dosso Dossi, The Trojans Building the Temple to Venus at Eryx and Making Offerings at Anchises’s Grave

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Dosso Dossi, The Trojans Building the Temple to Venus at Eryx and Making Offerings at Anchises’s Grave, c. 1520, oil on canvas, 59.4 × 85.6 cm (23 3/8 × 33 11/16 in.), Purchased as the Gift of Anonymous

Dosso Dossi’s newly rediscovered painting The Trojans Building the Temple to Venus at Eryx and Making Offerings at Anchises’s Grave (c. 1520) has been acquired by the National Gallery of Art. This painting completes the story depicted in the right half of Dossi’s Aeneas and Achates on the Libyan Coast (c. 1520) acquired in 1939 as part of the Samuel H. Kress Collection. These paintings resemble each other stylistically and feature shared motifs that show the continuation of the myth from one painting to the other. Both works feature Dossi’s highly imaginative style, with freely brushed figures in a myriad of colors set in lush green landscapes dotted with pseudoclassic buildings.  

This painting was originally part of the decoration of Duke Alfonso d’Este’s camerino, or study, in his castle at Ferrara, which featured one of the most important mythological cycles of the Italian Renaissance. The decoration of the camerino included five large canvases with pagan subjects by Giovanni Bellini, Titian, and Dosso Dossi. Above the principal pictures, a painted frieze by Dossi depicted scenes from Virgil’s Aeneid, which tells the story of Aeneas, who founded the state of Rome after wandering for seven years following the Trojan War. Two paintings from Duke Alfonso d’Este’s camerino are already in the National Gallery’s collection: Giovanni Bellini and Titian’s Feast of the Gods (1514/1529) and Dossi’s Aeneas and Achates on the Libyan Coast (c. 1520).

The Trojans Building the Temple to Venus at Eryx and Making Offerings at Anchises’s Grave and the other nine panels of the Aeneas frieze were acquired by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1608 and remained in his family for two centuries before the Spanish collector Pascal Madrazo purchased them between 1803 and 1819. The catalog of the Madrazo collection, published in 1856, indicates that the Aeneas frieze was intact through 1856, when they were recorded among the possessions of José de Madrazo y Agudo (1781–1859), former court painter and one of the early directors of the Prado Museum in Madrid.

When the series was separated and dispersed, one of Dossi’s canvases was bisected, separating Aeneas and Achates on the Libyan Coast from The Trojans Building the Temple to Venus at Eryx and Making Offerings at Anchises’s Grave. The discovery of this work helps to clarify the subject of the complete frieze cycle, which does not represent Aeneas and Achates on the Libyan coast in book 1 of the Aeneid, as was formerly believed. Rather it depicts various incidents described in book 5: the meeting of Aeneas and his friend Acestes (Achates) in Sicily, offerings made at the tomb of Aeneas’s father Anchises, and the erection of the temple dedicated to Venus at Eryx.

Gifts from the Tony Podesta Collection

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Oren Eliav, Rest on the Flight into Egypt, 2015, oil on canvas, Gift of Tony Podesta Collection, Washington, DC, 2020.116.1

Over the past two decades, gifts from the collection of Tony Podesta have made significant contributions to the contemporary holdings of the National Gallery of Art. Podesta has recently donated several outstanding works in a variety of media by artists from eight different countries.

Paintings

Israeli artist Oren Eliav (b. 1975) is inspired by old master paintings, exploring their techniques and perspective while highlighting themes with contemporary relevance, such as sexual violence, political corruption, false testimony, and refugee experience. Rest on the Flight into Egypt (2015) incorporates controlled effects like layering, transparency, and blotting to create a suggestive, surreal landscape with a mysterious figural narrative. This is the first work by Eliav to enter the National Gallery’s collection.

The Kenyan German artist couple known as Mwangi Hutter merged their artistic identities in 2005. Through painting, video, installation, and performance, they explore issues of identity, race, and relationship dynamics. Ours To Hold And Caress And Cherish (2017) from the Embracing Series—their first work to be acquired by the National Gallery—takes advantage of the fluidity of acrylic paint to present a lyrical image of an embracing, intermingling couple.

Sculptures

Inspired by old master painting, classical mythology, and Christian iconography, Berlinde De Bruyckere (b. 1964) is a Belgian sculptural illusionist who uses casting and a variety of materials to create surreal presences that consider issues of human and animal suffering, abjection, beauty, and decay. Actaeon (Miami III) (2012), part of a series based on the story of Diana and Actaeon from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, is the first work by her to be acquired by the National Gallery.

Chinese artist Chen Zhen (1955–2000) is known for his examination of East-West differences, critique of Maoism, and exploration of Taoist traditions. Un-interrupted Voice (1998) is a rare example from Chen’s Daily Incantation series and the first work by the artist to be acquired by the National Gallery. It consists of three wooden chamber pots attached to a board with metal fasteners and a bed that has been turned into a drum by stretching a cowhide over it. The pots resemble Buddhist bells, referring to the artist’s childhood memory of noises from the cleaning of chamber pots intermingled with mandatory reciting of Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, also known as the Little Red Book.

Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa’s (b. 1967) sculptures explore the neglect of Havana’s historic and modernist cityscape under the Castro regimes and indirectly address Cuban politics. Towers (2000), a delicate, luminous structure made from Japanese rice paper and eight light bulbs, simultaneously refers to phalluses, rockets, Noguchi lamps, and Japanese architecture. The sculpture is characteristic of the wit, craft, and poetic suggestiveness of his best-known works. This is the first sculpture by the artist to enter the collection.

Photographs

Accompanying Garaicoa’s Towers is his 2004 photograph Untitled (#2330). It is part of a series in which the artist photographed deteriorated structures in Havana and then outlined their missing parts with pins and thread placed directly on the surface of the print. This work is an important example of Garaicoa’s examination of the social and political importance of the built environment in Cuba and will join two other photographs from the series in the National Gallery’s collection.

Brazilian-born artist Vik Muniz (b. 1961) recreates easily recognizable images or well-known artworks with unexpected materials, such as thread, garbage, and torn out fragments from magazines, and then photographs the results. Adding to the National Gallery’s holdings of Muniz’s photography is Leap Into the Void, after Yves Klein (1998), the first from his Pictures of Chocolate series to enter the collection. Using chocolate syrup, Muniz made a two-part drawing after Yves Klein’s iconic 1960 photograph Leap into the Void. The final photographic diptych alludes to the photomontage process used to create the astonishing original photograph that captured Klein diving off a building to an empty street below. In a second photograph by Muniz in this gift, WWW (World Map) (2008), from his Pictures of Junk series, the artist has created a three-part planisphere map of the world using discarded plastic and electronics. The title, which includes the acronym for the world wide web, points to the global connectivity of human technology and the ever-increasing detritus it produces.

In her Soliloquy series, British artist Sam Taylor-Johnson (b. 1967) has presented large photographs placed above smaller panoramic ones, echoing the format of a Renaissance altarpiece with its main panel and predella. Soliloquy IX (2001) portrays a man sitting, perhaps in a sauna, shrouded in steam and lost in his own thoughts. A picture of a barren landscape is depicted below him. The formal separation of the two photographs suggests a comparison between the sublime and physical. Soliloquy IX joins three photographs and two time-based media artworks by Taylor-Johnson in the National Gallery’s collection.

Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled

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Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled (1 of 7), 1996, printed 2020, inkjet print with sandblasted text on glass in wood frame, Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2020.96.1.1

The National Gallery of Art has acquired Untitled (1996, printed 2020) by Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953). It consists of seven inkjet prints, each a reproduction of a historic photograph and each framed with sandblasted text on glass. Weems layers text and images to center African American perspectives, constructing a nuanced history that speaks of racial pride, resilience, sacrifice, and determination. It joins a robust collection of Weems’s work that includes a diverse range of photographs and prints from throughout her career.

The first and last photographs in Untitled are reproductions of a 1973 photograph by Richard Benson of soldiers depicted in Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s The Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial. Etched into the glass on the first photograph are the words “Square-toed and flat-footed we came walking out of the wilderness in twos & fours heading north toward industry toward hope.” The text on the last photograph reads, “Once out of the storm came the act of naming our voices crackling with resistance rose from deep within and bid us rise & stake our claim block by block.”

Other prints in this series reference music and religion. The second and sixth images reproduce a photograph by Russell Lee of a processional outside a church on the South Side of Chicago in 1941. The glass on top of one of them is etched with the score of Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday”; a page from the score of Miles Davis’s “All Blues” appears on the other. The third and fifth images are reproductions of photographs by Doris Ulmann of the ceremonial act of foot washing, and the fourth picture reproduces a late 1910s portrait of the Morris Williams family by an unknown photographer. The text etched into the glass on top of these three pictures alludes to the Great Migration of African Americans to the North after the Civil War: “Guarded by Angels of Mercy we cake-walked to Mood Indigo into Shy-Town--The Windy City--Chicago”; “Arriving in Bronzeville we became killers of sheep men of letters, women of steel”; “Jet Black or Indian Red our scale of values differs from that of the world from which we have been excluded.” The pictures and text create a work that echoes the plea to God from the lyrics in Ellington’s score: “Please look down and see my people through.”

Installed on the Boston Common in 1897 and reworked in a 1900 plaster version on view at the National Gallery, The Shaw 54th Memorial commemorates Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the men of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first regiments of African American soldiers formed in the North during the Civil War. It depicts the 54th Regiment as they marched through Boston on their way to the South, and it has been hailed as one of the finest examples of 19th-century American sculpture, celebrated for its sensitive rendition of the soldiers. Revealing the enduring power of Saint-Gaudens’s memorial, Carrie Mae Weems incorporated images of it into her art a hundred years later to commemorate another march—that of African Americans streaming north from the Jim Crow South

Francesco Marcolini, Le Sorti intitolate giardino di pensieri…

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Francesco Marcolini, Le Sorti intitolate giardino di pensieri…, 1540, bound volume with woodcut frontispiece, author portrait, and 100 woodcuts designed by Giuseppe Porta, 32.8 × 23.8 cm (12 15/16 × 9 3/8 in.), The Ahmanson Foundation and Edward E MacCrone Fund, 2021.2.1

The National Gallery of Art has recently acquired a rare first edition of the lavishly illustrated 16th-century book of fortune-telling Le Sorti intitolate giardino di pensieri (1540), published by Francesco Marcolini (c. 1500–c. 1559). One of the most important printers in Venice during this period, Marcolini’s editions are admired for their design, typography, and beautiful illustrations.

The century’s most famous book of fortunes, Le Sorti [The Fortunes] was the first to make predictions using playing cards instead of dice. The reader chooses a question from a list that is separated into three categories: for men, for women, and for both. The question then refers the reader to one of a hundred graphic folio pages. Each page features either a personification of a virtue or vice or an ancient philosopher––there are 50 of each kind––surrounded by paired playing cards. After selecting a pair of cards, the player is directed to different page and another pair of cards, which offer an aphoristic answer to the original question. The questions and the answers were devised by the celebrated humanist and theorist Lodovico Dolce.

The lavish woodcuts in Le Sorti were designed by Giuseppe Porta (c. 1520–c. 1575), called Porta Salviati because of his training with the Florentine mannerist Francesco Salviati. The elaborate frontispiece depicts a group of men and women using the book in a garden, a reference to Marcolini’s own garden, where intellectuals and artists regularly gathered. A portrait of Marcolini appears on the verso. The book not only established Salviati’s reputation in Venice, but also marked the advent of a central Italian style, which helped determine the course of Venetian art and influenced such luminaries as Tintoretto and Veronese.

Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli, called Morazzone, Studies for Christ Before Caiaphas

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Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli, called Morazzone, Studies for Christ Before Caiaphas, 1608/1609, black chalk heightened with white gouache on blue-gray laid paper, 26.4 × 38.5 cm (10 3/8 × 15 3/16 in.), Gift of Andrea Woodner, 2021.3.1

Early 17th-century Milanese painting combined the naturalism of the emerging baroque style with the extravagant stylization of mannerism. Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli, called Morazzone (1573–1626), was the school’s most theatrical interpreter, determining the development of Lombard painting throughout the century. His influence is particularly apparent in the region’s famous Sacri Monti—pilgrimage sites across the foothills of the Alps with life-sized dioramas of religious narratives. Acquired as a gift of Andrea Woodner, Studies of Christ before Caiaphas (1608/1609) is a rare and important example of Morazzone’s draftsmanship.

The drawing suggests the artist’s gift for orchestrating form upon the page in the developed figure studies that do not display an obvious relationship to one another. Its handling, deep chiaroscuro, and richly textured black chalk reveal a debt to Venetian draftsmanship that was unique among the Milanese. The drawing is also significant as a preparatory study for the scene of Christ brought before the high priest Caiaphas, one of three frescoes surrounding a terracotta group in the chapel of the Flagellation at the Sacro Monte above the town of Varese. This chapel was Morazzone’s first collaboration with a sculptor to create one of these ensembles.

Christopher Myers, What Does It Mean to Matter (Community Autopsy)

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Christopher Myers, What Does It Mean to Matter (Community Autopsy), 2019, cotton appliquéd on furnishing and specialty fabrics, Washington, Purchased as the Gift of Glenstone Foundation, 2021.1.1, Courtesy of the artist and Fort Gansevoort

Christopher Myers (b. 1974) creates works of art in a variety of media, from books and films to theater and quilts, that address the experience of people of color around the world. He has collaborated with the American artist Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1976) and with craftspeople and musicians in cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, Yogyakarta, and New Orleans. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, What Does It Mean to Matter (Community Autopsy) (2019) memorializes adults and children who have died at the hands of the police or while in custody. Acquired in January 2021, the work is the first by Myers to enter the National Gallery of Art's collection, made possible by a generous gift of Mitchell and Emily Rales.

A combination of sumptuous pattern and tragic content, What Does It Mean to Matter (Community Autopsy) was first shown at a 2020 exhibition of Myers’s fabric works at the Fort Gansevoort gallery in Los Angeles. The title of the show, Drapetomania, was a reference to both the draped medium of the works and the name of a 19th-century pseudo-disease used to pathologize the behavior of fugitives from slavery.

Myers has said: “The image of the autopsy sheet marked by a coroner has become central to the imagery and conversations of Black Lives Matter. Here I combine several of the wounds from some of the more high-profile cases. . . . I wonder what can be done to tell our young people that they matter, before they are inscribed in a coroner’s report. Included in the piece are the autopsies of Laquan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown Jr., Antwon Rose Jr., Miriam Carey, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., Ezell Ford, and Jordan Edwards.”

Jonas Wood, Helen’s Room

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Jonas Wood, Helen’s Room, 2017, oil and acrylic on canvas, 228.6 × 203.2 cm (90 × 80 in.), Purchased as the Gift of Stuart Barr, Sarah MacKey, and TSL, a Private Asian Collector, 2020.13.1, Photography by Brian Forrest, Image courtesy of the artist and Gagosian

The National Gallery of Art has acquired its first work by contemporary artist Jonas Wood (b. 1977). Wood’s graphic painting style uses familial relations to address the real and psychological spaces that capture the intimacy and personal nature of his work. An important example of the artist’s work, Helen’s Room (2017) refers to an upstairs bedroom in Wood’s maternal grandfather’s home in Binghamton, New York. This painting, the artist has explained, created a "new, heightened memory of spending time with family."

Wood combines several studies into a single image, resulting in spatial contradictions and subtly interrupted or overlapping elements. Characteristic features of his work include art historical references (Henri Matisse’s cut-outs and Jasper Johns’s linear inventions) and the interaction of pattern with large areas of color, a mix of acrylic paint (for flat areas) and oil (for impasto details).

In Helen’s Room, Wood combines autobiographical elements and historical references with a deliberately cool tone that is highly personal. These elements create a viewing experience of depth and complexity. "Helen" refers to a housekeeper who had used the bedroom shown in the painting. Aided by a photo of the original space, Wood made the work as a combination of real and invented imagery "as remembered at age nine." The "real" elements from the photo include the cat (a Siamese belonging to the artist’s parents), the bed, copies of Matisse paintings made by SUNY Binghamton students commissioned by his grandfather, the lighting, folded maps behind the floor lamp, the phone, and the remote control on the side table. To these items, Wood added the butterfly/moth picture above the bed (a colored version was owned by Wood’s maternal uncle in a different home), and the nature scene out the window to the right (which was covered with a drape in the photo.)

Richard Estes, Portrait of I. M. Pei

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Richard Estes, Portrait of I.M. Pei, 1996, oil on canvas, Gift of Ian M. and Annette P. Cumming, 2020.21.1

Best known for his complex photo-realistic scenes of urban environments, Richard Estes (b. 1932) rarely painted portraits, except for a few images of close friends. Portrait of I. M. Pei (1996) is the first painting by Estes to enter the collection, where it joins 34 prints by the artist. The work is as much a portrait of the National Gallery’s Study Center as it is a portrait of the architect.

Portrait of I. M. Pei is unique among Estes’s art because it combines a portrait with complex architectural forms. In 1995 Dodge Thompson, chief of exhibitions at the Gallery, approached Estes to paint a portrait of Pei (1917–2019), who was the architect of the East Building. Ian M. Cumming, a patron of the Gallery, and John Wilmerding, the National Gallery’s deputy director, encouraged Estes to paint the portrait against the setting of the East Building.

In 1967 Andrew Mellon’s children, Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon Bruce, offered funds for a second National Gallery of Art building, and Pei was selected to design it. The modernist structure he conceived was inspired and informed by its trapezoidal site, located between Pennsylvania Avenue and the National Mall and between Third and Fourth Streets NW. Pei designed the East Building as two triangles—one to hold a library, offices, and community of scholars and the other as public gallery space for the permanent collection and exhibitions. Pei linked his design for the East Building to John Russell Pope’s neoclassical design of the West Building by using the same Tennessee pink marble to clad the exterior. Construction of the East Building began in 1971, and on June 1, 1978, Paul Mellon and President Jimmy Carter dedicated the new museum to the people of the United States.

Dora Maar, Père Ubu

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Dora Maar, Père Ubu, 1936, gelatin silver print, Gift of J. Patrick and Patricia A. Kennedy, 2020.110.1

Père Ubu (1936) by Dora Maar (1907–1997) is an iconic photograph of the surrealist movement. This exceptional print has recently been given to the National Gallery of Art by J. Patrick and Patricia A. Kennedy. It joins two other works by Maar already in the collection and strengthens the National Gallery’s holdings of surrealist photography.

Compelling and repellent, Maar’s unusual portrait of a bizarre animal with a flat, angular head, elephantine ears, and curved arms with claw-like appendages is meant to evoke the monstrous, dictatorial lead character from Alfred Jarry’s controversial absurdist play Ubu Roi (1896). Maar’s creature highlights the bestial nature of Jarry’s antihero, whose greed, cruelty, and vulgarity were manifested in his horrid appearance. Maar never confirmed her source material, preferring to let viewers ponder what this armored yet oddly vulnerable and soft-skinned creature might be. Many contemporary scholars believe that the photograph depicts an armadillo fetus preserved in formaldehyde.

Susan Hiller, Ten Months

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Susan Hiller, Ten Months, 1977–1979, 10 gelatin silver prints and 10 text panels, Gift of the Collectors Committee, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund, Gregory and Aline Gooding Fund, and David Knaus Fund, 2020.76.1.a-t

Working in a variety of mediums, including painting, video, film, installation, performance, and photography, Susan Hiller (1940–2019) folded elements of anthropology, psychoanalysis, and the occult into her art. The National Gallery of Art recently acquired Ten Months (1977–1979), its first work by Hiller and an important piece in her oeuvre that enhances and expands the National Gallery’s collection of conceptual and performance photographs.

Like other feminist artists of the 1970s and early 1980s, such as Valie Export (b. 1940), Ana Mendieta (1948–1985), or Francesca Woodman (1958–1981), Hiller makes herself both the subject of her art and the object of her own gaze. Ten Months consists of 10 framed pictures, each containing 28 individual photographs—one for each day of the lunar month—of her growing stomach over the course of her pregnancy. The framed photographs are paired with texts from the artist’s journal that refute sentimental notions of pregnancy, instead providing critical observations of a woman’s position in society. Installed in an arc, with the first month of her pregnancy positioned high off the floor and each succeeding one placed slightly below the one before it, Ten Months reflects on the physical and psychic weight carried during pregnancy.

Installation view of Susan Hiller’s Ten Months (1977–1979), gelatin silver print, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors Committee, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund, Gregory and Aline Gooding Fund, and David Knaus Fund © The Estate of Susan Hiller; Courtesy Lisson Gallery, 2020.76.1.1-20

Seven Works by Five Contemporary Artists

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Amy Cutler, Gorge, 2009, gouache on paper, 59 3/4 x 40 1/2 in., Gift of Heather Podesta, 2020.106.2, © Amy Cutler, Courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, Photo: Jeffrey Sturges

The National Gallery of Art has been given seven superb works by five contemporary artists, two of whom are not currently represented in the collection. Donated by Heather Podesta, who has given numerous works over the years, this outstanding gift includes a work by Liza Lou (b. 1969), two works on paper by Amy Cutler (b. 1974), and four chromogenic prints: two by Sharon Core (b. 1965) from the Thiebaud series, one by Thomas Demand (b. 1964), and one by Frank Thiel (b. 1966).

Paintings and Works on Paper

Best known for her iconic beaded sculptures and paintings, Liza Lou centers her artistic practice on issues of materiality and social consciousness. In 2005, she set up a studio in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where she works alongside local Zulu women who are skilled in the craft of traditional beadwork. Woven in collaboration with her studio assistants, Blue (2016) is a monochromatic red square made from strips of sewn glass beads that were handcrafted in Japan. Originally titled Crimson, it was retitled Blue in 2016 when the artist donated the work to a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Blue is the first work by Lou to enter the National Gallery’s collection.

Amy Cutler’s imaginative scenarios explore the complexities of human relationships and conventional gender roles. She often juxtaposes traditional costumes, patterned textiles, and other aspects of material culture with references to history, folklore, fairytales, popular culture, and personal experience to address misperceptions of women and underscore female resilience. Her intricate and enigmatic narrative drawings Gorge (2009) and Export (2007) are the first works by this contemporary figurative artist to enter the National Gallery’s collection. 

Photographs

Trained as both a painter and a baker, Sharon Core made the candies and cakes depicted in her Thiebaud series to precisely mimic those in Wayne Thiebaud’s iconic 1960s paintings. Using reproductions of his paintings as guides, she carefully replicated not only the objects he painted, but also his compositions, lighting, shadows, textures, and perspectives. Candy Counter 1963 (2004) and Pie Counter (2003) are excellent examples of Core’s exploration of the boundary between artifice and reality.

Thomas Demand is celebrated for appropriating already existing photographs—often from newspapers and the media but also from cell phones—and making life-sized sculptural reconstructions of them out of colored paper and cardboard. After carefully lighting and photographing the model, he destroys it. In Wand/Mural (1999), Demand photographed a world map on a wall, including part of the floor, ceiling, and an electrical outlet. He suggests the vulnerability of the world by leaving only the photographic record.

Frank Thiel is best known for his large-scale photographs of Berlin that address the massive changes in the city in the years since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Often photographing large buildings under construction, he creates pictures that point to the shifting social and cultural landscape of the city, new modes of living, and the temporality of urban existence. In Stadt 2/75 (Berlin) (2003), Thiel focuses on tightly interlocking structural forms to suggest the endless replicability of the new architecture.

Nancy Shaver, Georgiana, Shirley, and Sharon

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Nancy Shaver, Georgiana, Shirley, and Sharon, 2011, wooden blocks, fabric, paper, Flashe acrylic paint, and house paint, 27.94 × 27.94 × 8.26 cm (11 × 11 × 3 1/4 in.), Gift of Elizabeth Kessenides, 2020.19.1

The National Gallery of Art has acquired its first sculpture by Nancy Shaver (b. 1946) entitled Georgiana, Shirley, and Sharon (2011). Given to the National Gallery by Elizabeth Kessenides, it joins an earlier photograph, Striped T-shirt on Plywood (1975–1977), in the nation’s collection. This work amplifies the aesthetic traditions that celebrate the humble, the colloquial, and the undervalued in American material culture.

Georgiana, Shirley, and Sharon is an example of the recent series of hybrid painting-sculptures that Shaver has referred to as “blockers.” These works straddle the distinct categories and genres of painting and sculpture and defy easy classification. The blockers are rooted in the “junking trips” Shaver made with Walker Evans while studying photography with him at Yale University. They shared an interest in the vernacular, a commitment to an art “about the democracy of things,” and a trust in the role of a discerning eye in pursuit of their respective “finds”—castoffs in her case, postcards in his.

Each work is composed of irregular wooden blocks of roughly the same size that have either been painted a monochrome hue or covered with a piece of patterned fabric. Arranged in grids to form squares or rectangles, the vivid, chunky compositions are installed flush to the wall. Shaver uses house paint or gouache alongside fabric from women’s clothing found in secondhand stores and flea markets. The textiles are often vibrantly colored or busily patterned. In what she sees as a fundamentally redemptive act, Shaver challenges herself to use this material, which she acknowledges as “pretty bleak,” to create something that in its very unfamiliarity reveals “the width of beauty.”

Alighiero Boetti, Oggi diciannovesimo giorno ottavo mese dell'anno millenove100ottantotto (Today the Nineteenth Day of the Eighth Month of the Year OneThousandNine100Eighty-Eight)

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Alighiero Boetti, Oggi diciannovesimo giorno ottavo mese dell'anno millenove100ottantotto (Today the Nineteenth Day of the Eighth Month of the Year OneThousandNine100Eighty-Eight), 1988, cotton embroidery (Bokhara couching) on cotton/linen fabric, Gift of the Collectors Committee, 2020.103.1

Alighiero Boetti (1940–1994) was one of the leading artists associated with the arte povera movement in Italy and a major figure of international conceptualism from the 1960s through the 1980s. Untitled (1988), a rare example of arte povera, is the first work by the artist to enter the collection of the National Gallery of Art.

Boetti’s most iconic works are the embroideries he began to produce in Afghanistan in 1971 and subsequently in Pakistan after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. He worked with local craftspeople, mostly women, to produce three distinct types of embroideries: Arazzi (word square tapestries), Mappi (maps), and Tutti (representations of “everything”). Untitled is an example of the Arazzi style and is comprised of 25 rows. Each row consists of 25 individual blocks that feature a single letter of either Italian lettering or the Arabic script of Farsi, the spoken language of the work’s embroiderers, who were then living in exile in Peshawar. Evoking Boetti’s deep interest in Afghan culture and his interrogation of artistic identity, the work is a true collaboration between the artist and his gifted collaborators. Boetti determined the format of the embroidery as well as the layout of the letters, which contain messages in Italian and English. The embroiderers selected the color scheme and the four Farsi texts that are stitched in yellow and black, which include their names, the equine game of buzkashi (the national sport of Afghanistan, “land of the horse-riders”), and Afghan Independence Day.

Leonardo Drew, Number 76S

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Leonardo Drew, Number 76S, 2019, cotton, 152.4 × 152.4 × 13.3 cm (60 × 60 × 5 1/4 in.), Purchased as the Gift of Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, Meredith and Brother Rutter, and Joan and David Maxwell, 2020.105.1, Courtesy Anthony Meier Fine Arts, Photo by Phillip Maisel, San Francisco

The National Gallery of Art has acquired Number 76S (2019) by contemporary artist Leonardo Drew (b. 1961). Drew is best known for large wall reliefs composed of blackened pieces of wood and often incorporating larger natural wood forms (twisting roots and branches), all packed into tight but sprawling grids that both cover and come off the wall. Number 76S is a work made entirely of cotton, a material that he used early in his career and to which he has recently returned. It joins 14 prints by the artist that were given to the National Gallery of Art by Kathan Brown in 2019.

Drew addresses themes of time, labor, life, decay, order, and chaos throughout his sculptural works. He has explained his attraction to the grid as a matter of practicality as well a testament to the influence of Piet Mondrian, one of his heroes. He is known for bringing the influence of his travels (to Senegal, Brazil, Peru, and Japan) into his work in subtle ways and for his practice of taking apart and reusing previous works to give them new life. In the early 1990s, Drew began to use rust, cotton, and wood in his sculptures. Cotton refers to historical African American experiences of labor as well as his artistic improvisation, both of which have been a central theme in his work since 1994.

Thomas Schütte, Man Without Face

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Thomas Schütte, Man Without Face, 2018, cast patinated bronze on artist’s steel base, Gift of the Collectors Committee, 2020.104.1

Working across media to explore themes of cultural history and the human struggle for progress, Thomas Schütte (b. 1954) is best known for his sculptural output and his focus sculpture and the role of the monument. A leading artist of his generation, Schütte demonstrates his concerns in a variety of scales, often within a given series and a combination of architectural and figurative elements. Man Without Face (2018) is the first work by Schütte to enter the National Gallery’s collection.

Using new approaches to traditional sculpture, Schütte’s examines the human form by presenting the figure in a series of anti-heroic postures. In 1982/1983 Schütte made his first figural work, Man in Mud, which developed from the simple solution to a problem: to keep a figure upright, the artist inserted the figure’s legs in a box that came up to its knees. The work came to represent the existential crisis of modernity’s constant need for progress.

The artist has made more than 20 variants of this work in different sizes and configurations, each subsequent work unmaking the previous work’s meaning and interpretation. Schütte’s most recent series of bronzes explores new dimensions of this earlier work to look at the artist’s own progress. The National Gallery’s cast of Man Without Face, is the second largest of these works and features a laborer standing up to his shins in muck. In place of his face is a sheer vertical surface, as if his identity had been sliced off, and in his right hand he holds his own mask-like visage, with eyes open and gazing back, away from the figure. In Man Without Face, Schütte imagines a way forward by looking back.

Howardena Pindell, Free, White and 21

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Howardena Pindell, Free, White and 21, 1980, single-channel video with sound, color, 12:15 minutes, Gift of Garth Greenan, 2020.20.1

The National Gallery has acquired Free, White and 21 (1980) by Howardena Pindell (b. 1943), the first video by the artist to enter the collection. Given by Garth Greenan, it joins one early work on paper, three prints, and a promised gift of one of her highly textured collaged canvases comprised of hole-punched paper dots.

Pindell made her influential video Free, White and 21 following a car accident in 1979 that left her with partial memory loss. In the video, Pindell faces the camera and recounts her personal experiences of racism as an African American woman in America. Throughout the video, she adds to or takes away materials from her head and face, concealing and revealing the social construct of race based on skin color. These segments alternate with footage of Pindell—dressed as white woman with a blond wig, skin-lightening makeup, and sunglasses—responding to her own testimonials with victim-blaming statements. The video concludes with Pindell’s white character stating unapologetically, “You must really be paranoid. I’ve never had an experience like that. But, then, I’m free, white, and 21.”

Yvonne Thomas, Portrait

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Yvonne Thomas, Portrait, 1956, oil on linen, Gift of Estate of Yvonne Thomas, 2020.22.1

Yvonne Thomas (1913–2009) is among several important artists from the abstract expressionist era, many of them women, who have been rediscovered in recent years. Portrait (1956), a pivotal work in Thomas’s career, is the first of her paintings to enter the National Gallery’s collection and joins an untitled screenprint from 1967.

In 1938 Thomas studied fine art at the Art Students League of New York as well as with Amédée Ozenfant in his atelier. She began to associate with the abstract expressionists, joining discussions at The Club (where she was one of the few members who were women) and at the short-lived school called The Subjects of the Artist. She also studied in Provincetown with Hans Hofmann and exhibited at the renowned Ninth Street Exhibition in 1951. Throughout her work, she combined the gestural language of the New York School painters with sensitive brushstrokes and a lyrical sense of color. In Portrait, the ghostly figurative suggestions and tinted grays evoke an image coming into focus. The painting resonates with works by Judith Godwin, Jack Tworkov, and Frank Lobdell in the National Gallery’s collection.

Aurelio Lomi, The Stoning of Saint Stephen

Aurelio Lomi, The Stoning of Saint Stephen, c. 1602c. 1602

Aurelio Lomi, The Stoning of Saint Stephen, c. 1602, pen and ink with oil over chalk on four sheets of paper, New Century Fund and The Ahmanson Foundation, 2020.101.1

The National Gallery of Art has acquired The Stoning of Saint Stephen (c. 1602) by Aurelio Lomi (1556–1622), the leading painter in Pisa during the last quarter of the 16th century. It joins two other works by Lomi in the National Gallery’s collection: a figure study in chalk, Studies of a Youth Pulling Ropes (recto); Faint Study of a Youth Pulling a Rope (verso) (1610s), and a small monochrome bozzetto of the Visitation, a preparatory work for a Florence altarpiece from around 1590.

The Stoning of Saint Stephen, a large study in oil on four joined sheets of paper, depicts the martyrdom of one of Genoa’s patron saints. The composition refers to a touchstone for the entire school: Giulio Romano’s altarpiece from c. 1521 in the church of Santo Stefano. The study is closely related to Lomi’s altarpiece for the church of Santa Maria della Pace (now in Genoa’s Musei Civici). Besides composition and subject, the two works share certain distinctive details, such as the luminous celestial sphere. However, the study is more expansive and densely populated than the altarpiece, suggesting it may have been an autonomous work.

Created while Lomi was living in Genoa (1597–c. 1604), this work is an exquisite example of the artist’s meticulously constructed compositions and figures, as well as his ability to create works suffused with light. It epitomizes the transition from the stylization of late mannerism to the more naturalistic light, movement, and texture of baroque style.

Jean Dughet, after Nicolas Poussin, Baptism

Jean Dughet, Nicolas Poussin, Baptism, c. 1650c. 1650

Jean Dughet, Nicolas Poussin, Baptism, c. 1650, etching with engraving on two sheets of laid paper, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, 2020.102.1

The National Gallery of Art has acquired Jean Dughet’s (1619–1679) The Seven Sacraments (c. 1650), a rare complete set of etchings after Nicolas Poussin’s (1594–1665) paintings of the seven sacraments. There are only three other known complete sets of these prints in the collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the British Museum, and the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Poussin painted a first set of the Seven Sacraments in 1638–1642 and a second set in 1644–1648. He made the first set for Cassiano dal Pozzo, secretary to Cardinal Francesco Barberini and one of Poussin’s most important patrons. Cassiano took an active interest in the early history of Christianity and most likely suggested the almost unprecedented subject to Poussin. Dughet, Poussin’s secretary and brother-in-law, made these large-scale etchings after the first set of paintings, which were hung in Cassiano’s home. Baptism is the first plate in the series and features an elaborate dedication to Cassiano at upper left; the other prints are sequenced according to numbers etched at lower center. Dughet recorded the exact compositions in all of Poussin’s paintings except for Ordination, in which he incorporated the landscape background from Poussin’s second painting of this sacrament.

These are the first works by Dughet to enter the collection. They expand the National Gallery’s holdings of 17th-century French art, which include Poussin’s painting The Baptism of Christ (1641/1642), from Cassiano’s first set of the Seven Sacraments.

Charles Aubry, Untitled (A Study of Leaves)

Charles Aubry, Untitled (A Study of Leaves), 18641864

Charles Aubry, Untitled (A Study of Leaves), 1864, albumen print, Purchased as the Gift of Diana and Mallory Walker, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund, and W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg, 2020.97.1

Charles Aubry (1811–1877) is highly regarded for his impeccable photographic still lifes. Untitled (A Study of Leaves) (1864) is the first work by the artist to be acquired by the National Gallery of Art. It complements the various still life paintings, prints, drawings, and photographs already in the collection, from the celebrated Dutch paintings of the 17th century to the works of modern artists such as Paul Cézanne, Edward Weston, and Irving Penn.

Working in a variety of sizes, Aubry made about 200 photographs of flowers and fruit. His larger prints, such as Untitled (A Study of Leaves), have a dazzling luminosity. Using a technique of his own invention, Aubry dipped leaves and flowers into plaster and placed them in elaborate arrangements, piling different varieties on top of one another. The plaster coating enhanced the texture and three-dimensionality of the foliage and allowed him to capture detail in green objects such as leaves (his collodion negatives were overly sensitive to the color green). Aubry often arranged his still lifes on a table, lit them from above, and photographed them from a downward angle to fully illuminate each element and to minimize shadows. He also was known to hang objects on a fabric-covered wall and light them straight on for the same reasons.

Past Highlights