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    21 Works to Ring in 2021

    Ring in 2021, and reflect on 2020, with 21 inspiring works from our collection! Each work is associated with a unique theme to help you and your family explore how art can tell diverse stories that reflect our shared humanity. Whether you choose to use these prompts as a jumping-off point for daily dinner conversations or as discussion topics for weekly walks, we hope you find a sense of renewal in these mini-reflections as we look with hope toward the new year.

    Balance

    Kay WalkingStick, Allan Edmunds, Experimental Printmaking Institute, il sogno del cortile (The Courtyard Dream), 2004

    Kay WalkingStick, il sogno del cortile (The Courtyard Dream), 2004, color screenprint, collagraph, and lithograph on two sheets of Rives BFK wove paper, Gift of Jon D. Smith, Jr., Harold and Janet Tague, and Riley Temple, 2008.82.12.1–2

    On the left side of this work, two bodies dance amid a magnificent field of colorful plants. They are counterbalanced on the right by more densely rendered vegetation. This interplay between the human art and ritual of dance and the natural world creates a bridge that unifies our internal, spiritual world with the external world around us. Together, the two make a complete, balanced composition. This makes me reflect on the importance of balancing both my inner, mental health with my outer, physical health.   ~ Chrissy Waldron, instructional technologist, User Services

    Look

    Imagine that this work of art could make a sound—what song or sound effects would you hear?

    Connect

    Which parts of your life do you seek to balance? How do you create that balance?

    Create

    Create a diptych—side-by-side image such as this one—to express two aspects of your life that you wish to keep in balance

    Calm

    Shawn Walker, Untitled (Harlem, New York), c. 1980

    Shawn Walker, Untitled (Harlem, New York), c. 1980, gelatin silver print, Charina Endowment Fund, 2018.82.4

    Walker captures the most quotidian of winter happenings: snow melting on a sidewalk. I follow the craggy, icy edges of the waning snow as it sinks into the asphalt. My eyes quietly trace the resulting abstract patterns of moisture—reassuring in their persistence, calming in their inevitability—as they move across the picture to meet Walker’s shadow. With the outline of his camera just visible, he stands still, framing Harlem as a site of the everyday, of the passing seasons, and of a tranquil beauty.   ~ Anjuli Lebowitz, exhibition research associate, Department of Photographs

    Look

    What shapes can you see within this image? Trace the edge of the different shapes with your eyes.

    Connect

    What gives you a sense of calm or inner peace?

    Create

    Take a photograph that captures the feeling of calm. It might be a place, time of day, or person that brings you peace. Or create an abstract painting with the colors that bring you a sense of calm.

    Creativity

    Al Loving, Brownie, Sunny, Dave, and Al, 1972 (later revised)

    Al Loving, Brownie, Sunny, Dave, and Al, 1972 (later revised), stained, torn, cut, and sewn canvas, and wooden rod, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, 2013.61.1

    Loving’s painting Brownie, Sunny, Dave, and Al is a collection of stained bands of cloth, some tied in knots, that hang from a wooden rod. Notably, the bands, which are torn, cut, and sewn, extend from the surface of the wall to the floor. This is a big work of art, both in scale and concept. I am inspired by the artist’s creativity. Loving boldly pushes the traditional definition of what a painting is.   ~ Martha Schloetzer, museum specialist, Division of Education

    Look

    This work is made up of layered lines. Find vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines. Slowly trace each line with your eyes.

    Connect

    Creativity allows us to bring something new into the world by connecting us to the beauty of sound, design, color, movement, ideas, and words. Who are some people you admire for their creativity? When do you feel most creative?

    Create

    Make a work of art with nontraditional materials, perhaps with items found in your kitchen. Play, experiment, imagine. Let the materials push you to be innovative.

    Explore More

    Outliers and American Vanguard Artist Biographies

    Community

    Byron Kim, Synecdoche, 1991-present

    Byron Kim, Synecdoche, 1991-present, oil and wax on lauan plywood, birch plywood, and plywood, Richard S. Zeisler Fund, 2009.39.1.1-560

    The title of Kim’s Synecdoche refers to a figure of speech in which the whole refers to the sum of its parts, or vice versa. It is a group portrait made up of individual skin tones, arranged alphabetically by the sitter’s first name. The artist continues to add panels to this ongoing work, broadening its scale and representation. Over time, this work has enabled me to see the spectrum of colors that comprise our one human race.   ~ Molly Donovan, curator of contemporary art, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art

    Look

    What does this work of art remind you of?

    Connect

    What does community mean to you? Describe a time when you have been a part of a community—how did that feel?

    Create

    Make your own skin tone portrait. Try mixing a color that approximately matches the color of your forearm. Then, paint a 10 × 8–inch piece of wood or paper, covering the entire surface. Display them with those made by family members or friends.

    Explore More

    Podcast
    Uncovering America: Expressing the Individual

    Connection

    Alexander Calder, Triple Gong, 1951

    Alexander Calder, Triple Gong, 1951, painted steel, painted wire, and brass, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1996.120.27

    In Triple Gong, every element is connected yet independently floats freely: when the two upturned hammers connect with the three brass forms, they produce sound. Calder said, “Noise is another whole dimension.” Of his more than 22,000 documented works, around four dozen were designed to be seen and heard. Connection begets connection, as the sounding gong unexpectedly connects the mobile with the ear of the viewer. Unpredictable and ever-changing, Triple Gong connects us to the delight of serendipity.   ~ Emily Pegues, assistant curator, Department of Sculpture and Decorative Arts

    Look

    Describe the shapes. What do they remind you of?

    Connect

    What gives you a sense of connection to the world? What might you do to nurture connections that give you strength, hope, and peace?

    Create

    Experiment with creating a work of art that makes a sound, or a three-dimensional work that interacts with the space around it. As you work, think about how a work of art connects to an audience.

    Explore More

    Tower 2: Alexander Calder
    The Elements of Art: Form

    Courage

    Albrecht Dürer, Knight, Death and Devil, 1513

    Albrecht Dürer, Knight, Death and Devil, 1513, engraving on laid paper, Gift of W.G. Russell Allen, 1941.1.20

    The courage exemplified by the armored horseman in Dürer’s engraving Knight, Death and Devil feels especially resonant and inspiring for me during this difficult season of isolation and uncertainty. Dürer’s solitary knight focuses his gaze on the unseen horizon even as he is hounded by monsters that aim to slow his progress along an already rocky path. His fortitude—bolstered by the companionship of the dog by his side—will deliver him to the safety of the distant castle just visible at the top of the composition.   ~ Brooks Rich, associate curator, Department of Old Master Prints

    Look

    Find these clues to the story:
    1)  Hourglass (a symbol of time and mortality)
    2) Foxtail speared on knight’s lance (stands for lies)
    3) Dog (a symbol of truth and loyalty)
    4) Scurrying lizard (a hint of coming danger)
    5) Skull (symbol of death)
    6) Death (with a crown of snakes)
    7) Devil (with the face of a goat)
    8) Knight’s shining armor (symbol of faith)

    Connect

    What does courage mean to you? Discuss with your family the different ways in which people can demonstrate courage.

    Create

    Choose an act of courage that inspires you—it can be from history or the present day. Make a drawing or painting describing that courageous act. As an artist, consider how the setting, characters, facial expressions, gesture, and descriptive details help bring a story to life on the page.

    Explore More

    Albrecht Dürer Biography

    Generosity

    Jacob Ochtervelt, A Nurse and a Child in an Elegant Foyer, 1663

    Jacob Ochtervelt, A Nurse and a Child in an Elegant Foyer, 1663, oil on canvas, The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund, 2015.68.1

    Accompanied by his nurse, a young boy—probably no more than five or six years old—drops a coin into the hat of the youthful mendicant (or beggar) who, with his mother and younger sibling, has approached this elegant home. Ochtervelt’s sensitive portrayal of the nurse conveys her compassion for the visitors and her gentle encouragement of the boy’s generosity. From the room beyond, the boy’s parents can see that he recognizes the importance of charity toward the less fortunate.   ~ Betsy Wieseman, curator and head, Department of Northern European Painting

    Look

    How many people are in this scene?
    Describe each person’s facial expression, gesture, and attire.
    How does everyone contribute to the story?

    Connect

    Think of a time when someone was generous to you. Discuss with your family some of the ways that you can be generous.

    Create

    Share your creativity. Make a work of art to brighten someone’s day!

    Explore More

    Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century

    Gratitude

    Abraham Mignon, Still Life with Fruit, Fish, and a Nest, c. 1675

    Abraham Mignon, Still Life with Fruit, Fish, and a Nest, c. 1675, oil on canvas, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. H. John Heinz III, 1989.23.1

    Like a cornucopia, Mignon’s bursting basket of food reminds us of being grateful for the fruits of an abundant harvest, the fresh fish ready to fry, and the wheat to grind for bread. It reminds us to be thankful for life in its many forms—birds, butterflies, insects, frogs, and flowers. This painting makes me reflect on the sense of peace and calm we feel when we have everything we need. It also inspires a sense of generosity for others who have not experienced that same feeling of plenty.   ~ Cynthia Kaufmann, chief, Office of Horticulture Services

    Look

    Find these details that symbolize the bounty of water and land:
    1) Fishing rod
    2) Bait box
    3) Bundle of freshly caught fish
    4) Wheat
    5) Grapes
    6) Melon
    Find these details that symbolize the cycles of life:
    7) Nest with eggs (birth)
    8) Open blossoms (maturity)
    9) Ripe fruit (maturity)
    10) Gnarled tree stump (old age)
    11) Dead lizard (death)

    Connect

    Reflect on what it is that you are most grateful for. It could be simple daily gifts—such as breakfast or books—or larger issues like health and family.

    Create

    Draw or paint your own still life that captures what you are grateful for. That could include the things that have helped you get through the year. You can find objects to symbolize aspects of your life—friends, family, health, school, etc.

    Explore More

    An Eye for Art: Observing Everyday Life—Osias Beert the Elder, Willem Claesz Heda, and Jan Davidsz de Heem (PDF 13.8MB)
    Teaching Resource: Painting in the Dutch Golden Age

    Hope

    Sigmar Polke, Hope is: Wanting to Pull Clouds, 1992

    Sigmar Polke, Hope is: Wanting to Pull Clouds, 1992, polyester resin and acrylic on canvas, Gift of the Collectors Committee, 1993.59.1

    Combining details from a 16th-century woodcut into a scene of patchworked color, this work reminds me that hope is not easy to hold onto. With ropes wrapped tightly around his arms, Polke’s subject has done the impossible: lassoed the clouds. The man strains to pull the clouds toward him, allowing the tiny sailboat safe passage into a vibrant sunrise or sunset. To me, this painting expresses that hope, or optimism, is not easy to have or keep, but can make the impossible a reality.   ~ Samantha Niese, event planning specialist, Office of Special Events

    Look

    What shapes do you see? What colors do you see? What image(s) do you see? Describe them. Why might the artist have made this image to express hope?

    Connect

    Hope is looking toward the future with optimism. What do you hope or dream for? What do you hope for others?

    Create

    What makes you motivated to move forward? Write an acrostic poem inspired by what gives you hope. In an acrostic poem, the first letter of each line forms a word or phrase. The vertical word is usually the poem’s subject. The lines can describe a subject or even tell a brief story about it.

    H ________________________________________
    O ________________________________________
    P ________________________________________
    E ________________________________________


    Explore More

    Learning Resources: Remixes
    Art since 1950 (PDF 2.4MB)

    Humility

    Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1667/1670

    Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1667/1670, oil on canvas, Gift of the Avalon Foundation, 1948.12.1

    On one level, The Return of the Prodigal Son is a scene from a morality play, foreshadowing man’s salvation by Christ. But within the stagey composition, fabric, animals, and figures are very realistically depicted, including the prodigal’s brother, at right, holding the ring, and looking understandably skeptical about his father’s lavish welcome. The prodigal’s parable also reflects a more general psychological reality: on the threshold of adulthood, many children rebel against parental values. Reconciling the parties at odds may require humility from all concerned.    ~ David Essex, curatorial associate, Department of Italian and Spanish Paintings

    Look

    Imagine what each person is thinking or feeling in this moment. What different perspectives might they be experiencing of this shared moment in time?

    Connect

    Humility is being modest, humble, and unpretentious; considering others’ views and needs as important as our own; and admitting mistakes and learning from them. When have you experienced a moment of humility (in yourself or others)?

    Create

    Try an exercise in perspective-taking. Write a poem from someone else’s point of view. Choose a figure from Murillo’s painting or select another painting to explore. Try to imagine the individual’s perspective as you complete these phrases:

    I am _____________________
    I wonder __________________
    I see _____________________
    I feel _____________________
    I hear ____________________
    I worry ____________________
    I think ____________________
    I dream ___________________

    Explore More

    Spanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries (PDF 42MB)

    Humor

    Honoré Daumier, Auguste-Hilarion, Comte de Kératry, model c. 1832/1835, cast 1929/1930

    Honoré Daumier, Auguste-Hilarion, Comte de Kératry, model c. 1832/1835, cast 1929/1930, bronze, Rosenwald Collection, 1943.3.4

    The exaggerated facial features and unpretentious treatment of the surface of this portrait make Daumier’s sculpture an excellent representative of his caricatural portrait busts. Although Daumier exaggerates his subject’s long, crooked nose, short neck, and wide, Cheshire-cat smile, I can’t help but think that his portrait busts were nevertheless truer to life than any other portrait or photograph. When I look at Daumier’s sculptures, I like to picture who each caricature might be in today’s popular culture: to me, this portrait reminds me of the Penguin character portrayed by Danny DeVito in the film Batman Returns (1992).   ~ Sarah Turner, museum technician, Office of Media Productions

    Look

    Daumier made a series of caricatures of French members of Parliament, exaggerating their facial features for satirical effect. What do you think Auguste-Hilarion’s personality was like?

    Connect

    What makes you laugh? Why might humor be important?

    Create

    Draw or sculpt a caricature of someone you know or someone in the news: exaggerate the features that make that individual unique.

    Explore More

    Exhibition: Sense of Humor

    Joy

    Alma Thomas, Tiptoe Through the Tulips, 1969

    Alma Thomas, Tiptoe Through the Tulips, 1969, acrylic on canvas, Corcoran Collection (Gift of Vincent Melzac), 2015.19.145

    I am captivated by Thomas’s visual poetry—her colorful brushwork joyfully dances across the canvas with a rhythm that lifts my heart. Thomas took her inspiration from everyday encounters with nature—a tree in her front yard, flowers in her garden, the starry sky. She translated her experiences of the world into abstract compositions, where color, line, shape, pattern, repetition, gesture, and texture sing in harmony.   ~ Nathalie Ryan, senior educator, Division of Education

    Look

    Describe the colors, shapes, and lines that you see. How do the colors, lines, and shapes contribute to the mood or feeling of this work of art? Why do you think the artist gave the work the title Tiptoe Through the Tulips?

    Connect

    What gives you joy, peace, and happiness? How do you bring joy to others?

    Create

    Make joyful marks. Experiment with different tools (paintbrush, marker, pastel, pen, pencil, fingers) and colors. Discover how you can express joy through the different lines, shapes, and marks that you make.

    Explore More

    Alma Thomas: Create a Color Square!

    Love

    Mary Cassatt, Woman with a Sunflower, c. 1905

    Mary Cassatt, Woman with a Sunflower, c. 1905, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection, 1963.10.98

    Until recently, I viewed this painting through the lens of sentimentality often associated with Cassatt’s domestic scenes. While there is no doubt that this painting is a tender depiction of the love between a mother and child, recent scholarship has offered me the opportunity to see it differently and have a deeper understanding of the artist’s intent. The large sunflower at the center of the composition was associated with the women’s suffrage movement, a cause dear to Cassatt’s heart, and conveys a powerful message about the changing role of women in society.   ~ Michelle Bird, curatorial associate, Department of French Paintings

    Look

    What parts of the painting catch your eye? How do the colors, lines, and shapes move your eye around the composition?

    Connect

    Who do you love? What issues are you passionate about? How do you show love through your words and actions? 

    Create

    Write a love letter to your favorite work of art. Tell it what you love about it. You can use the writing prompt below to get you started.

    Dear [work of art],
    I love your . . .
    You remind me of . . .
    You make me think about . . .
    I wish . . .

    Explore More

    Blog: Mary Cassatt’s Suffragist Symbolism
    An Eye for Art: Observing Everyday Life—Mary Cassatt (PDF 10.1MB)

     

    Loyalty

    Sir Edwin Landseer, Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler, 1820

    Sir Edwin Landseer, Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler, 1820, oil on canvas, Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2019.120.1

    Loyalty demands dedication, faithfulness, commitment, and the strength to do that which others will not or cannot do. Here, in the Great Saint Bernard Pass in the Alps, two determined dogs are bent on rescuing a lost traveler they have discovered buried in snow. The monks of the hospice there bred such dogs for exactly this purpose. For these dogs saving victims of weather and terrain was their duty in life, and the cause to which they gave their unquestioned and undying loyalty.   ~ Franklin Kelly, chief curator and Christiane Ellis Valone Curator of American Paintings

    Look

    Find these clues to the story:
    1) Dog collar with bells and lion (symbol of courage)
    2) Small keg of brandy to revive the wounded traveler
    3) Red blanket marked with “St B” to warm the wounded traveler
    4) Monks from the nearby St. Bernard monastery
    What do you think might happen next?

    Connect

    What does loyalty mean to you? Discuss with your family when/where you feel loyal. Why is this an important trait?

    Create

    You might be loyal to a pet, a friend, or family members. You might feel loyal to an athletic team, hometown, or social or environmental issue. Make a drawing that expresses your concept of loyalty.

    Reflection

    María Berrío, A Sunburst Restrained, 2019

    María Berrío, A Sunburst Restrained, 2019, collage with Japanese paper and watercolor on canvas, Gift of Erika and John Toussaint, 2020.2.1

    Berrío captures her two subjects lounging amid a sea of pastel and neon colors that, to me, have a sun-kissed energy. The two women, their cheeks flushed, rest their heads against their hands in a way that seems to signify a weighty fatigue that contrasts with their light and airy garments. Both stare out of the painting to a place beyond the viewer. They appear lost in the moment as they reflect, perhaps on their day’s tasks. As a viewer, I cannot help but be caught in their state of deep meditation.   ~ Tyrese Davis, management analyst, Administrative Services Division

    Look

    What mood or feeling does this work of art communicate? Why? How does the artist create the feeling of a sunlit courtyard in her image?

    Connect

    How do you build time for reflection into your day, week, year? What are the benefits of taking time to reflect?

    Create

    Draw or paint a self-portrait. Use a mirror to study yourself as you work. Reflect on how you might show your interior thoughts and feelings through artistic choices.

    Resilience

    Aaron Douglas, Into Bondage, 1936

    Aaron Douglas, Into Bondage, 1936, oil on canvas, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase and partial gift from Thurlow Evans Tibbs, Jr., The Evans-Tibbs Collection), 2014.79.17

    In Into Bondage, Douglas depicts African people forced to walk toward their own enslavement in the Americas. With Douglas’s recognizable painting style, silhouetted figures and rich shades of pink, yellow, blue, and green fill the scene. The central figure looks to a star, likely the North Star. Decades before the Civil War, African Americans escaping Southern plantations on the Underground Railroad used the North Star as their guiding beacon. This star represents hope, resilience, and a path to freedom.   ~ Mel Harper, associate projects manager, Interpretive Resources, Division of Education

    Look

    What mood or feeling is expressed here? What makes you say that? How do the colors, lines, and shapes contribute to the feeling of this work?

    Connect

    Think of a time when you had to overcome adversity. Think of a person from history who has had to overcome adversity. What qualities help you develop resilience?

    Create

    Brainstorm a list of your personal strengths—qualities, skills, and tasks that you do well. Design a poster with all the words on it. When you are facing disappointment, loss, or challenges, look at this list to remind yourself of the skills that you can use to overcome adversity.

    Explore More

    Blog: Look to the Light
    American Paintings, 1900–1945
    Uncovering America: Harlem Renaissance

    Resourcefulness

    Andy Goldsworthy, Leafhorn, 1994

    Andy Goldsworthy, Leafhorn, 1994, sweet chestnut leaves, Gift of Emily and Mitchell Rales in Honor of Victoria Sant, 2019.41.1

    When I first saw Leafhorn shortly after it arrived at the Gallery, I was struck by how delicate yet resilient it appeared. The work is made entirely from sweet chestnut leaves, a material that the artist gathered and selected in his hometown in Scotland. Today, over 25 years after its making, these leaves remain intact and the sculpture holds its spiral, cornucopia-like shape. You can still see the organic veins weaving in and out of the work’s papery layers.   ~ Emily Ann Francisco, curatorial assistant, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art

    Look

    What does the shape of this sculpture remind you of? Examine its texture. What might it feel like to hold this sculpture?

    Connect

    How are you (and your family) resourceful? How might you be more resourceful in repurposing materials from your environment?

    Create

    Take a nature walk. See what natural materials you find as you wander along the way. Examine the colors and shapes of nature. Study patterns and designs. Touch different materials. Compare their texture, weight, and size. What did you learn during your walk? Did you see something that you’ve never noticed before? Like Goldsworthy, you might be inspired to make a work of art during your walk. Take a photo to remember it.

    Explore More

    Blog: Swept Drawings
    An Eye for Art: Studying Nature—Andy Goldsworthy (PDF 5.7MB)

    Respect

    Archibald John Motley Jr., Portrait of My Grandmother, 1922

    Archibald John Motley Jr., Portrait of My Grandmother, 1922, oil on canvas, Patrons' Permanent Fund, Avalon Fund, and Motley Fund, 2018.2.1

    I am always struck by the detail with which Motley described his grandmother’s face and hands. Their lines, contours, and shading show age and work. They visualize his love and reverence for her. This portrait is my favorite Motley work, for beyond its display of his virtuosity as an artist, it recalls my love and respect for my own grandparents, who taught me empathy, kindness, humility, and generosity.   ~ Steven Nelson, dean, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts

    Look

    Describe the choices that Motley made when he painted his grandmother—what is she wearing, how is she posed, what is the expression on her face, and what aspects of her identity or personality have been emphasized? If you could interview Motley’s grandmother, what would you want to ask her?

    Connect

    Make a list of all the people you respect. Then, reflect: What qualities do these individuals possess that makes you admire them?

    Create

    Draw or paint a portrait of someone you respect. Consider including details in your work that describe the qualities that inspired your respect.

    Explore More

    Uncovering America: Faces of America—Portraits
    Blog: Tribute to a Grandmother
    Online Feature: Harlem Renaissance

    Strength

    Jacob Lawrence, Daybreak - A Time to Rest, 1967

    Jacob Lawrence, Daybreak - A Time to Rest, 1967, tempera on hardboard, Anonymous Gift, 1973.8.1

    In Daybreak—A Time to Rest, Lawrence gives permission to Harriet Tubman, the courageous conductor of the Underground Railroad, to rest. He depicts her not as a hero on a plinth, but as a human who must regain strength to lead her passengers to safety. As she lies down, we can study the soles of her feet. Oversized and misshapen, they embody the hard journey from enslavement to freedom. Her soles are a reminder that sustained strength is found in rest.  ~ Jeannette Shindell, gallery support specialist, Office of the Director

    Look

    Examine these details that help tell the story:
    1) Baby in mother’s arms
    2)  Harriet Tubman’s feet
    3) Walking stick (a symbol of the walking stick that Tubman used)
    4) Ant (a symbol of something small that carries a large load on its back)

    Describe the way in which Jacob Lawrence tells Harriet Tubman’s story. What colors does he use, what shapes, and perspective? How has the artist chosen to show Tubman’s personal and physical strength?

    Connect

    Reflect on your heroes: What are their strengths?

    Create

    Make a drawing or painting to honor one of your heroes. How will you show their strengths by the choices you make as an artist?

    Explore More

    An Eye for Art: Telling Stories—Jacob Lawrence (PDF 7.5MB)
    African American Artists in the Collection

    Wisdom

    Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait, 1659

    Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait, 1659, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.72

    When I look at this painting, I think about how an artist’s innate wisdom and artistic skill are developed over a lifetime of work. I cannot help thinking about the man holding the brush, and in the brief moments before paint was applied to canvas, how each previous piece of work guided his hand. After that pause, he applied each stroke of paint purposefully and confidently, using color and texture to create form, and not a single stroke of paint appears misplaced.   ~ Dina Anchin, associate conservator, Painting Conservation

    Look

    What aspects of his appearance and personality has Rembrandt chosen to feature?

    Connect

    What wisdom have you appreciated?

    Create

    Write a letter to your future self sharing all the wisdom you wish to remember, your reflections on the past year, and your hopes for the future. Seal the envelope and mark your calendar to open it on your birthday in 2022!

    Explore More

    An Eye for Art: Exploring Places—Rembrandt van Rijn (PDF 9.7MB)
    Teaching Resource: Painting in the Dutch Golden Age
    Video: Rembrandt
    Video: Self-Portrait, 1659, Rembrandt van Rijn

    Wonder

    Frederic Edwin Church, Niagara, 1857

    Frederic Edwin Church, Niagara, 1857, oil on canvas, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase, Gallery Fund), 2014.79.10

    I wonder at the falls’ scale and power—the dizzying height, thundering water, and vast expanse from one side to the other. I wonder at the artist’s skill in invoking my senses but also my mortality, as my awe before nature soon turns to wonder at how I am meant to experience this scene. Am I safe on a ledge, just above the drop? Or am I about to follow the path of the tree limb, nearing the falls’ edge just ahead?   ~ Catherine Southwick, curatorial associate, Department of American and British Paintings

    Look

    What does this work of art make you wonder? Imagine that you are standing at the edge of the falls: What would you hear, smell, feel?

    Connect

    What in nature inspires you? What do you find beautiful and mysterious?

    Create

    Find something in nature that gives you awe—it can be small or large. Take some time to examine it closely. Then, draw or paint a record of that experience.

    Explore More

    Uncovering America: People and the Environment
    Video: Seeing in Detail: Frederic Church and the Language of Landscape