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Look Together

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The National Gallery of Art is made up of two large buildings and a sculpture garden. In the West Building you'll find paintings and sculptures from the medieval period through the late ninteenth century, while the East Building contains works from the twentieth century through today. Use the questions below to create your own journey! 

CHOOSE | Find a work of art that catches your eye. Look at it for sixty seconds.

SHARE | Discuss three details you notice. If you could, what would you ask the artist?

COMPARE | Look at an artwork nearby. What is similar or different? Why do you think they are in the same room?

Shaw Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens

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Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Shaw Memorial, 1900, patinated plaster, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, New Hampshire

 

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This sculpture honors Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first African American regiments to fight in the Civil War. Each soldier is a unique portrait. 

LOOK | Do you see a drummer boy? A soldier carrying a flag? Canteens? Bedrolls? What else?

IMAGINE | You are a figure in the scene. How are you unique or similar compared to others? What might you be thinking or feeling?

DID YOU KNOW | The original plan for the Shaw Memorial has Colonel Shaw alone on a horse, but his family thought it important to include the regiment. How does that change its impact as a war memorial?

Niagara by Frederic Edwin Church

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

 
 

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IMAGINE |  You are painting this picture. Where are you standing? What do you see? What do you hear? Don’t miss the rainbow!

CREATE | Make a six-word story about how you feel when you look at this view. Work together or write your own.

COMPARE | Look at the paintings in the room. Can you find calm water? Moving water? Which landscape in the room best matches your mood? Why?

DID YOU KNOW | This exact view of Niagara Falls doesn’t exist. The artist combined several views for dramatic visual impact. 

Pansies in Washington by Alma Thomas

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Alma Thomas, Pansies in Washington, 1969, acrylic on canvas, Corcoran Collection (Gift of Vincent Melzac)

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LOOK | Alma Thomas drew inspiration for her paintings from the colorful garden views from her window. What do you see in the painting that reminds you of flowers?

IMAGINE | While she was painting, Thomas would envision herself in an airplane. What could these dabs of color represent as seen from above? What is in the center?

DID YOU KNOW | Thomas was an art teacher for over 35 years in Washington, DC, and began her painting career after her retirement in her late 60s. 

AT HOME | Many of Thomas’s paintings were inspired by views of her garden though her window. Look out of your window and sketch a scene that inspires you.

Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist) by Jackson Pollock

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Jackson Pollock, Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist), 1950, oil, enamel, and aluminum on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 1976.37.1

 

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OBSERVE | Look closely at the painting. What colors do you see? What lines and shapes can you find? Step back and look again. What do you notice now?

IMAGINE | You are artist Jackson Pollock, who invented a style of painting where he poured, flung, and dripped paint onto canvases spread on the floor. To make this painting, where did you start? What color did you use first? How did you decide when to stop?

DID YOU KNOW | Jackson Pollock did not actually use any lavender paint in this work. Where the pink, black, gray, and blue colors meet, some say it looks like lavender. Do you agree? What other title would you give this painting?

Various Works by Alexander Calder

Works by Alexander Calder in Tower 2 of the East Building. Works of art © 2019 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Works by Alexander Calder in Tower 2 of the East Building. Works of art © 2019 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

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This gallery has the largest display of works by Alexander Calder on view in the world. Calder was the first to create the hanging, moving sculptures you see, called mobiles. 

LOOK | Explore this gallery. Find the biggest and smallest sculptures. Compare them. Which mobile is moving the most?

OUTLINE | Using your finger, make an outline of your favorite sculpture in the air. What did you notice about its shape?

DID YOU KNOW | Calder was an inventive artist who never went anywhere without a pair of pliers in his pocket. Although most of his work is abstract, he was known to explore subjects such as animals and the circus. Can you find examples in this room?

Hahn/Cock by Katharina Fritsch

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Katharina Fritsch, Hahn/Cock (detail), 2013, on long-term loan courtesy of Glenstone Museum

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EXPLORE | Discover the National Gallery of Art with your camera. You can share it on social media with #myngadc.

LAUGH | Find a work of art that makes you laugh and take a selfie with it (make sure to laugh out loud for the picture!). #museumselfie

POSE | Find an artwork with an interesting pose or shape. Strike your own pose and take a photo. #museumpose

DETAIL | Zoom in on one part of a painting or sculpture. Snap a picture. #partsofpaintings

ANGLES | Observe a work of art from multiple points of view. Stand up close. Stand at a distance. Tilt your head and see if it makes a difference. Snap pictures from the angles you find interesting. #artdetail

The Judgment Day by Aaron Douglas

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Aaron Douglas, The Judgment Day (detail), 1939, Patrons' Permanent Fund, The Avalon Fund

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FIND | Angel Gabriel forms a powerful silhouette, stradling land and sea. He announces judgment day with a blow of his trumpet and the key to heaven in his hand. A bolt of lightning and a beam of light strike the figures below.

LOOK | Aaon Douglas first created this image to illistrate a book of poetry, God's Trombones. The rhythms of the painting mirror the verses in the book, based on the dynamic sermons of African American preachers. What do you see that could represent sound?

SHARE/POSE | Choose a peron in this scene. What do you think that figure is doing? Strike a pose that matches what you see. How do you feel in this pose?

AT HOME | Try creating a sketch with only three colors. Layer the colors to create new shades. 

The Farm by Joan Miró

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Joan Miró, The Farm (detail), 1921-1922, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary Hemingway

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LOOK | Can you find a dog, ladder, lizard, red rectangle, red wheel, rooster, snail, buckets, footprints, plants, water, windows, and four rabbits?

SHARE | This is a painting of the artist's childhood home. It includes the things that were most special to him. What's most special to you about where you live?

DID YOU KNOW | Miró left Paris and returned each summer to his family's farm in Spain. He went home to collect plants for this painting and included stylized versions of them.

AT HOME | Draw the things that make your home special.

Family of Saltimbanques by Pablo Picasso

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Pablo Picasso, Family of Saltimbanques (detail), 1905, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Chester Dale Collection © Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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LOOK | Picasso said, "Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions." What colors do you notice in this painting?

TITLE | Saltimbanques means circus performers. What clues do you see that the figures are part of a circus?

POSE/SHARE | Become a figure in the scene. How are you unique or similar compared to the others? What might you be thinking or feeling?

COMPARE | Look at the other paintings by Picasso in this room. How are they the same? How are they different?

Cakes by Wayne Thiebaud

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Wayne Thiebaud, Cakes (detail), 1963, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art from the Collectors Committee, the 50th Anniversary Gift Committee, and The Circle, with Additional Support from the Abrams Family in Memory of Harry N. Abrams

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IMAGINE | What do you think the flavors of the cakes are? How might they smell? Which cake would you want to take home to eat? Why?

SHARE | Artist Wayne Thiebaud paints things that remind him of his childhood. What is one object you would choose to remind you of your childhood?

AT HOME | Bake (or draw) a cake inspired by one of these. Take a photo of your completed cake and share it with #myngadc.