Neptune Fountain | Library of Congress

Neptune Fountain | Library of Congress

Friday, August 22, 2014

Postal Service Issues Stamps Celebrating Hudson River School Painters

During the 19th century, the artists of a young America searched for a new way of viewing the world and found it in the very landscapes around them. Inspired by the stunning natural beauty of New York state, the loose-knit Hudson River School of painters flourished from the mid-1830s to the mid-1870s and gave America its first major school of art.

This 12th issuance in the American Treasures series features details of paintings by four renowned Hudson River School artists. The paintings on these stamps are: Distant View of Niagara Falls (1830) by Thomas Cole, from the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago; Summer Afternoon (1865) by Asher B. Durand, from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Sunset (1856) by Frederic Edwin Church, from the collection of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute; and Grand Canyon (1912) by Thomas Moran, from the collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Art Everywhere

People throughout the United States have voted for the works of American art they most want to see installed in Art Everywhere US, the initiative that will transform billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms, airport dioramas, movie theaters and more into a free, open-air art gallery across the country. The top three vote-getters are in the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection: Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942), Mary Cassatt’s The Child’s Bath (1893) and Grant Wood’s American Gothic (1930) took first, second and third. All three are currently on display at the Art Institute.

Fourteen works were chosen from the National Gallery of Art, Washington collection including Thomas Eakins's The Biglin Brothers Racing (1872), Winslow Homer's Breezing Up (A Fair Wind) (1873-76), and Gilbert Stuart's George Washington (1821).

Art Everywhere US is organized through a collaboration among five major museums—the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York—and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America and its members, with the cooperation of artists, estates, foundations, and rights agencies. 

In April 2014, voting began on the official website, where the public was invited to register their preferences among 100 artworks nominated by the five museums. The website has now been converted into an interactive art gallery, where there is more information about the selected works and the story of American art in the United States.

A nationwide celebration of America’s artistic legacy, Art Everywhere US will begin on August 4, 2014, with a launch event in New York’s Times Square, where digital billboards will display all 58 of the selected artworks. For the subsequent four weeks, through August 31, Art Everywhere US will be installed on as many as 50,000 displays, both static and digital, in all 50 states.

Nighthawks (1942) | Winslow Homer
The Child's Bath (1893) | Mary Cassatt
American Gothic (1930) | Grant Wood
The Biglin Brothers Racing (1872) | Thomas Eakins
Breezing Up (A Fair Wind) (1873-76) | Winslow Homer
George Washington (1820) | Gilbert Stuart

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Stolen Matisse Painting Returned to Caracas, Venezuela Museum

Venezuelan authorities on Monday welcomed home a painting by the artist Henri Matisse more than a decade after it had disappeared from a Caracas museum.  The painting, Odalisque in Red Pants (1925), was recovered in 2012 by F.B.I. agents in Miami when they arrested two people and charged them with trying to sell the long-missing artwork.  Officials do not know when it was stolen from the Contemporary Art Museum of Caracas, where it was part of the museum’s collection, because the thieves put up a fake version of the painting in its place — a ruse that was discovered in 2002.  Photographs showed that the fake, which experts said was crudely executed, was in place at least as early as 2000.  News of the painting’s recovery two years ago caused a stir in Venezuela, and officials on Monday made a show of bringing it home, with a live television broadcast from the Caracas airport.  When it was recovered, American officials said the painting was worth $3 million.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Summer of Van Gogh at National Gallery of Art, Washington

A portrait of Joseph Roulin, the postman Vincent van Gogh made famous through a series of portraits, will be exhibited for the first time in the National Gallery of Art’s West Building French galleries from June 8 to September 7, 2014. On loan from the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, The Netherlands, Portrait of Monsieur Roulin (1889) will hang alongside the Gallery’s own Roulin’s Baby (1888), the portrait of the postman’s daughter Marcelle as an infant. The loan adds to the National Gallery’s celebration of two new paintings by Van Gogh that arrived within the last year from the bequest of renowned philanthropist, art collector and Gallery benefactor Paul Mellon. They had been living with Mellon’s wife, Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, until her death in March of this year. 

Shortly after moving to the river port town of Arles in the south of France, Van Gogh began painting the Roulin family. In letters, the artist idealized the patriarch. On canvas, he immortalized him; his wife, Augustine; and their three children, Armand, Camille and baby Marcelle. “The relationship between Van Gogh and the Roulins was extraordinary,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “The artist’s admiration for them is evident in these portraits and the opportunity to see these portraits of father and daughter reunited again, for the first time in 125 years, is not only a touching tribute to the enduring bonds of friendship, but a poignant reflection on family.”

The portraits of the postman and his daughter Marcelle will go on view with seven other paintings by Van Gogh from the Gallery’s holdings, including Girl in White (1890), La Mousmé (1888), The Olive Orchard (1889), Roses (1890), and the recent acquisitions, Green Wheat Fields, Auvers (1890) and Still Life of Oranges and Lemons with Blue Gloves (1889).

Farmhouse in Provence (1888) will be on view until early July, when it will be replaced with the artist’s Self-Portrait (1889), returning from a loan exhibition.

Portrait of Monseiur Roulin | 1889
Oil on Canvas |  25 9/16 in. x  21 1/4 in.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Union Station | Washington, D.C.

In 1901, the U.S. Senate Park Commission invited master American architect and planner Daniel Burnham to orchestrate a sweeping urban plan for Washington, D.C and make it in a setting that was both practical and grandly befitting a world capital.

Burnham, remembered for his work constructing the stunning “White City” in Chicago for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, would help create the colossal architecture now associated with the National Mall.  He designed Union Station to remove the rail lines from the center of the Mall, which had become a tangle of paths, gardens, and buildings, and brought two major railroads—the Pennsylvania and the Baltimore and Ohio—into one terminal.

The white granite and classic lines of Union Station set the mode for Washington's classic monumental architecture for the next 40 years through the construction of the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the Federal Triangle, the Supreme Court Building, and the National Gallery of Art.

Ionic columns and chiseled inscriptions mark Union Station's neoclassical facade which includes a soaring vaulted entryway and heroic statuary on its 600-foot length.  Just above the main cornice of the central block are six statues representing fire (Prometheus), electricity (Thales), freedom and justice (Themis), imagination and inspiration (Apollo), agriculture (Ceres), and mechanics (Archimedes).

Completed in 1908, the Beaux Arts national historical landmark was constructed with bones of modern concrete and steel. The 96-foot high coffered Main Hall ceiling shimmers with gold leaf, reflecting light onto the expanse of its marble floor through spacious skylights and windows, while 26 centurion statues stand at attention overhead.

When the building first opened, it also featured a private, secure waiting room for the president and his visitors, as well as a public dining room with walls covered in murals modeled after those excavated at the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

I captured the following images during a behind-the-scenes tour for winners of the National Trust for Historic Preservation Instagram contest. The Trust has designated Union Station as part of their National Treasures program.

Fun Fact | On January 15, 1953, an out of control train on Track 16, crashed through the staionmaster's office, a newsstand, and into the main concourse of the station. Miraculously, no one was killed. A tower crew member, located about a mile from Union Station, was able to warn the stationmaster that a runaway train was on its way.  The concourse was cleared in just two and a half minutes. Within hours, the marble floor of the station collapsed under the weight of the locomotive.  Ninety-six hours later, President-elect Dwight Eisenhower's inaugural train rolled to a stop on Track 16 into a concourse that showed little evidence of the accident.