These still pictures remind me of a motion picture. Which one? Click on the question mark and take the quiz to see. Click each picture to enlarge.
British figurative painter Lucian Freud ("Portrait of Leigh Bowery") owned a casting of Auguste Rodin's "Iris, Messenger of the Gods" which is positioned next to it. These are both confrontational and sensual in their pose, and nature. The sculptural properties of Freud's painting technique mirror the curves of Rodin's piece. They both have dimensionality, weight, and texture. He had an affinity for unfinished works, lacking certain body parts, where the fragment expressed the entire form. Rodin's work retains the turbulent marks of the sculptural process. The messenger's pose shows vulnerability, power, invitation. It has been compared frequently to "Origin of the World" by Gustav Courbet, 1886, a realistic, nearly voyeuristic view of a woman's vagina. The figure was originally created as a part of a monument to Victor Hugo, designed to float above the writer’s head as a muse. It was repurposed after he removed the wings, head, and arm. Rodin was often commissioned to create monuments for notable people, as we can see the groundbreaking "Balzac" located in the sculpture garden. It is said that Rodin was also influenced by the popular can can dancers of the late 1800's. (See Henri De Toulouse Lautrec painting, "Jane Avril Dancing"). Both Brancusi and Rodin had groundbreaking thought processes and practices, and are considered fathers of modern sculpture.
Freud owned a later casting of "Iris", and was reported to have it at his bedside at some point, being one of the first things he would wake up to. Leigh Bowery, the subject of Freud's painting, was a London based performance artist, designer, and socialite. Many photographs of Bowery show him wearing elaborate full face makeup, adorned with props and avant garde costumes. In this portrait, he is unmade, off guard, and natural. The grooves and folds of his skin are alive and breathing in muted, diverse colors. Bowery would die tragically two years later of AIDS related illness, ending the powerful collaboration between the two. The works with Bowery were considered masterpieces for the time, as Freud perfected the life in his brushstrokes at this late point in his career. He created relationships with his subjects and felt that their connection and chemistry was vital in his creative process. He painted under direct observation, his sessions with subjects spanning over long hours. (See the book - "Man With the Blue Scarf - Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud"). Freud reportedly raised the heat in the studio he was working in to give his models a certain sleepy languor. The setting was exactly as portrayed: a dingy, small studio apartment, riddled with dirty rags. During his working process, he is known to be incredibly entertaining and charismatic, and as his focus intensifies, he becomes increasingly vocal in a stream conscience. His children have remarked that they learned the most from him in their lifetime sitting as his subject for a painting. Freud was mostly absent from his family, throwing his relationships away for his love of painting.
Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi ("The Sleeping Muse") worked as an assistant in Auguste Rodin's studio, eventually parting ways, claiming he couldn't advance under such a successful sculptor. The works are positioned directly across the room from each other. Brancusi shows that he is trying to achieve a much smoother, more simplified look, reducing natural forms to shapes that suggest the object. The soft impressions for the features are incredibly different from Rodin's curvy, defined sculpting on "Iris", focusing on accuracy. One has the evidence of human touch, while the other lacks it completely. Brancusi wanted to focus on the essence of a subject rather than depicting it the way it exists. His monthlong stint in Rodin's studio upon his arrival to Paris proved as a turning point in his artistic career. Brancusi realized he preferred to cut directly into the material, rather than cast versions of it like Rodin. This is a practice used in African sculpture processes, an influence that shows in his work, and many other European artists at the time. (See the painting "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" by Pablo Picasso). He was inspired by the wooden masks created in what was deemed "primitive" cultures. After this break, he went on to produce famous modern sculptures such as "The Kiss" and "The Sleeping Muse", and he emerged in the American art scene afterwards. Another version of this piece was included in the groundbreaking 1913 Armory Show in New York, which showcased new horizons in American and European art. "The Sleeping Muse" is polished perfectly, the marble sparkling, while "Iris" has a heavy, dark coarseness. Comparing the two, we can see allusions to myth and mysticism. "Iris" portrays a Greek messenger of the gods, and "The Sleeping Muse" references gods and goddesses who provide as a catalyst for inspiration in learning and creation. "Iris" is overtly sexual in her nature, while "The Sleeping Muse" has an ovoid shape that references fertility and conception. Brancusi believed this sacred shape was key in his artistic trajectory, a symbol that represented the origin of life, mirroring the artist's creation.
Jean Paul Riopelle ("Large Triptych") and Joan Mitchell ("Field for Skies") shared a long, stormy relationship as abstract expressionist painters in the 70's and 80's. Their pieces are both triptychs, each one standing massive and alone on the outer walls of separate galleries. Mitchell was a painter with strong standing in the art world of New York City, generally grouped into the label of "second generation abstract expressionist". Riding the last wave of "Ab-Ex" with the late works of Pollock, De Kooning, and Krasner, she became known for her rhythmic, gestural marks, large bursts of color, and emotionally receptive scale. Her works are a poetic transcription of the natural world around her, often working from the memory of landscape scenes as subject matter. In "Field for Skies" we can see large green blocks saturated with depth, representing spacious fields. The wild, explosive orange and yellow hues depict a sunny, warm day. As viewers, we are receiving the emotion of a place in time. Mitchell works from memory in her studio, in this case, on three very large panels, extending her body across the canvas, a very physical experience. Her living environments in Michigan as a child, New York, and Paris influenced her, recreating them in a surprisingly careful and controlled way. Mitchell was influenced by poetry, and perhaps used the triptych form as a way of punctuation in her painting. Through her paintings, we can see her incredible sense of memory and her capacity for synesthetic experiences. (See the book "Joan Mitchell" - Lady Painter). Today, Mitchell is heralded as a feminist icon, a woman who thrived in a place where she didn't belong. The New York art scene was generally dominated by men, and Mitchell fought for a place in their circle. She was known to be very attached to her dogs, often naming her paintings after them in adoration. She listened to swing and jazz music during painting, claiming that it helped propel her rhythm and pace across the canvas.
Riopelle was a Canadian painter working in a similar fashion to Mitchell, creating large scale "Ab-Ex" works that depicted various landscapes. His technique was much different: oil paint was squeezed directly from the tube, and applied in it's heavy entirety with a palette knife. The paint is thick and abundant on the canvas, while Mitchell's appears to be watered down, blended in. Riopelle's palette knife shaped gestures create an intricate mosaic like aspect to his work. In the monumental "Large Triptych", rectangular shapes of different strong colors make up an all over composition, covering every area of ground. Implementing heavy paint, or "impasto" is a technique born from the Baroque painters and Impressionists, most famously Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt. Instead of the impasto highlighting a representational subject, Riopelle creates an entirely abstract work, focusing primarily on forms and the way they weave into each other. The colors he uses are characteristically darker and more dramatic than Mitchell's, incorporating more earth tones as well. Mixing together naturally with the motion of the palette knife, the colors range from untouched to muddy. The center panel seems to be scratched into in an erratic manner, the absence and presence of paint noticeable through the grooves and trenches. Both "Field for Skies" and "Large Triptych" are an experience of emotion, power, and presence. Riopelle and Mitchell met in Paris, where she escaped from New York City to focus on her work. The two lived together in the French countryside for about 25 years, a fiery relationship fueled by heavy drinking, a love of painting, and a similar vision for their own work. The galleries' placement of their work describes their unity, and their split.
Jean Dubuffet ("Spirit of Tarnish") uses an ordinary household material like aluminum foil in his sculpture, preceding Eduardo Basualdo's piece ("The End of the Ending") also created with a similar type of foil, 50 years later, much larger and more dramatic.
Dubuffet's piece is contained in a glass box on a pedestal, placed right before you enter the dark room that contains Basualdo's looming, rock like sculpture. "Spirit of Tarnish" seems to be a portrait, with a bust like shape and vague indentations suggesting features, the most familiar being the two nails as beaming, angry eyes. It's form is organic, with rough edges and grooves, the folds of the foil endless and mesmerizing. Dubuffet, a French sculptor was born to a wealthy family and had sporadic stints in creating art during the sixties. His work is an incredible contribution to the movement "low art" or "outsider art". (See also the terms - "art brut", "arte povera"). Artists in this movement believed that the creation of art should be stripped of it's inherent connection to social status, wealth, education, institutional standards. Dubuffet was famously fascinated by art created by children, prisoners in reform, and the mentally ill. He claimed that he was more interested in something made from the hands of a "simple man", rather than an "artist". He amassed his own personal collection of works deemed "outsider art". Dubuffet's life is an interesting paradox. He was criticized for his writings, which were elegant, complex and lengthy. Now, his work is famously displayed in a government institution: something he had originally opposed against. Dubuffet was also concerned in breaking down standards of traditional beauty in art. His color palette includes earthy colors like tan, brown, black and grey, which critics often related to human waste. In terms of materials, he worked with anything unorthodox: sand, (See "Limbour as a Crustacean") paper mache, cement, tar, and aluminum foil. "Spirit of Tarnish", which loosely depicts a human face, is a great example of his experiments in parody portraiture. Many viewers remark that Dubuffet's work looks amateur, or childish. The bodies in his paintings are composed of scribbles and lines, resembling crude stick figures. "Spirit of Tarnish" can be likened to the simple, childlike act of balling up tinfoil.
Eduardo Basualdo, a young Argentinian sculptor, created "End of the Ending" specifically for one of the Hirshhorn's smaller galleries, assembling it in the space. The room is dark, cramped, and Basualdo's work is huge and intimidating. The sculpture hugs the top of the ceiling and the right wall, leaving a designated path to walk through and experience the piece. Obstruction of space is an important element of it's impact on the viewer. You suddenly become aware of your body's place within the room, and you are forced to maneuver around it. Although "End of the Ending" appears to be a dense rock formation, it is mostly hollow inside. Large strips of black aluminum foil, frequently used in theatre production, are wrapped around a wire and wooden framework. The artist shapes the foil to give it the illusion of a natural rock texture. The arrangement of lights in this room is incredibly important for enhancing the drama and overall feel of the piece, highlighting certain areas and mysteriously concealing others.
Something interesting to note is the date that the piece was created. Basualdo's symbolism directly coincides with the anticipated cataclysmic events predicted by the Mayan calendar on December 21st, 2012. According to the artist, he originally visualized "End of the Ending" as a symbol for the apocalypse. Looking through his other works (sketches and drawings), we can see that he has an interest in black, void like forms that aggressively consume space. There is little information available on Basualdo, since he an emerging artist. Although we have no definitive evidence that he was influenced by Dubuffet's tinfoil piece, it's certainly an interesting placement and comparison within the galleries, a material used ingeniously throughout time.
Francis Bacon's resurrection of a lost Van Gogh ("Study for a Portrait of/Painter on the Road to Tarascon") is directly next to a small sculpture by Paul Gauguin ("Hina with Two Attendants") who Van Gogh lived with in Arles, France. Their placement describes the tumultuous residency the two shared for approximately a year, where Van Gogh descended into a struggle with mental illness. Additionally, both the paintings and the sculpture are recreations of destroyed original art. This juxtaposition perhaps has the biggest impact out of any in the exhibit.
Bacon's two pieces depict Van Gogh in the rural fields of Arles, where he would carry his materials outside and paint the landscape surrounding him. His paintings made here would become some of the most famous works of all time, representing the artists' incredible synesthetic experiences tied to the natural world. Van Gogh made a number of self portraits, implementing thick impasto and motion, consistent with his other works. His piece "Painter on the Road to Tarascon" was destroyed in a fire in World War Two, with only color photographic reproductions existing.
Francis Bacon is an Irish born British painter who shaped new horizons in modern figurative painting. His work is often gruesome and disturbing, painting disembodied biomorphic figures trapped in isolation and horror, devoid of time and space. The only allusion that Bacon gives to the character of Van Gogh in this work is the addition of the straw hat. (See - "Self Portrait With Straw Hat" by Van Gogh.) Otherwise, the figure is unrecognizable and mysterious. There are no distinct facial features other than a grimacing mouth and two dark sockets for eyes. In the painting on the right, the paint is stretched vertically across his face, quite similar to the distortion tactic used in "Study after Velasquez' Portrait of Pope Innocent X". Here, Bacon is giving life to the destroyed self portrait by recreating it in his own fashion. Although quintessentially Bacon regarding technique, his colors are more chaotic and bold, perhaps an homage to the saturated use of color that Van Gogh explored during his time at Arles. Bacon successfully represents Van Gogh as a ghost like memory through the way he chooses to paint him. Shrouded in mystery and loneliness, it describes the obvious loss of a priceless work of art, and the darkness of Van Gogh's own life. A series of eight paintings were created by Bacon based off of "Painter on the Road to Tarascon." An important part of this work is Bacon's use on photographic imagery. For example, his sexually charged painting 'Two Figures" has been directly interpreted from Edward Muybridge's motion studies, analyzing the positions of two men wrestling. In "Pope Innocent X", he has loosely transcribed a still of a screaming, bloody woman from Sergei Einstein's film "Battleship Potemkin." Following through with this practice, he creates his interpretations of Van Gogh's self portrait from a photographic reproduction. Bacon's studio was famously chaotic and riddled with odd sources of inspiration. After his death, his entire studio was relocated to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. Each item is exactly as it was left, and an entire database has been recorded of it's contents.
Positioned to the right is a small, cylindrical, wooden sculpture by the modern French master Paul Gauguin. This piece is prized and rare: only the original and one bronze casting exist. Gauguin worked alongside the Impressionists in his early artistic career, most famously with Vincent Van Gogh for approximately nine months at Arles. Together, they experimented with bold, colorful works that represented nature. After Van Gogh suffered from a mental breakdown, Gaugin decided to escape from European society, being drawn to places that he deemed as "exotic". He moved to Tahiti in 1891, living with the natives that were further removed from the colonized capital. His personal exile and embrace of non - western culture has served as a romantic example of the wandering artist. Tahitian religious art had been destroyed by the British Christian missionaries decades earlier. Missionaries came to "civilize" the Tahitians, denouncing their lack of clothing, use of dance in rituals, and polygamous relationships. Many of Gauguin's paintings show Tahitian subjects posed in modest European dress, representing the spread of Christian values throughout the native (See - "Woman With A Flower", 1891). Gauguin created a new image of a Polynesian moon goddess "Hina", standing peaceful, strong, and meditative. Having no visual representation of this goddess' physical form to work from due to the original being destroyed, he based the facial features off of the Tahitian women surrounding him. For the body's proportions and pose, he worked from a photograph of Buddhist art in a Temple in Java. Gauguin was fascinated with the concept of primitivism, along with many other European artists at the time. (See - Brancusi's "Sleeping Muse"). His works during this time are characterized by bold colors, distinct lines, and exaggerated features and proportions, distinctly removing his style from the Impressionists. Gauguin's work is often categorized under "Symbolism", a movement that stressed the spirituality behind physical forms. A great example of this is Gauguin's "Yellow Christ" done in 1889. This was a foreshadowing of the Fauvist and Expressionist movements in the early 1900's. The placement of both "Hina With Two Attendants" and "A Study for a Portrait of Van Gogh" illustrates the artists' desire to recreate the priceless work that has been lost throughout history. Delving further, it reminds us of the notoriously chaotic time that Gauguin and Van Gogh shared together in the "Little Yellow House" at Arles.
This Collection of resources on the American bald eagle includes images, videos, sculptures, and stamps that depict the American bald eagle.
The collection allows students to investigate whether the Gilded Age was prosperous for everyone. By examining these images students will be able to decipher that not all people benefited during this time. They will be guided by the following supporting questions, 1) When was the Gilded Age and who coined that name?, 2) Why was there massive and rapid economic growth during this time?, 3) Did everyone benefit from the expansion of industrialization?
This is an inquiry-based unit on colonial America for an 8th grade US history class, and my maiden voyage using the Smithsonian Learning Lab, the #C3Framework and #TeachingInquiry , and the guiding encouragement of my summer cohort, "Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects."
For this entire unit, my students will be “in character" as American colonists -- from New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Maryland -- starting around the year 1763. In general, I hope to challenge my 8th graders to perceive a shifting constellation of connections, relationships, and identities that drive people's self-understanding as they decide whether to side with Loyalist or rebel colonists.
Our summative performance task will be a multi-day debate between rebel and Loyalist colonists, with "fence-sitter" journalists evaluating arguments.
Supportive Question 1: “How might physical geography influence your colonial life in 1763?"
I hope this helps my students begin to grasp how the daily lives and world views of American colonists varied greatly, both within a particular colony and between colonies. They will hopefully uncover this for themselves as they plant their colonial identity in a specific colony, and begin finding their physical bearings in a coastal port city or a more rural area. Our research should help us perceive how geographical location might have affected an American colonist's early experience and opinion of British rule.
Supportive Question 2: “How might British taxes and news of the Boston "Massacre" affect your colonial life in the early 1770s?"
Once planted in a particular “neighborhood", I hope my students will really begin developing their colonial character (complete with colonial name and occupation) as they begin researching and exploring the web of economic connections they might share within their colony, and between their colony and England. We will evaluate the cultural points of view behind British and colonial opinions about taxes in the colonies, as well as contrasting newspaper accounts of the Boston "Massacre" as it is reported in colonial and London newspapers.
Supportive Question 3: “Is it time to fight for freedom from Britain?"
By 1774, I hope students are enjoying walking around in their colonial shoes (and, perhaps, identify which of their classmates might have made those shoes). Hopefully, some will perceive points of creative tension within their colonial identity, where they find themselves feeling more “British" than they do elsewhere. The formative task here, however, will be to make those opinions plain. Students will compare and contrast excerpts of Thomas Paine's Common Sense and Charles Ingliss' Loyalist response -- and begin to divide themselves (with some teacher intervention!) into rebel and Loyalist camps.
These still pictures remind me of a motion picture. Which one? Click the question mark and take the quiz to see. Click each picture to enlarge.
Guiding questions include:
-Who started the "revolutions" of 1989--Gorbachev and his reforms? People in Eastern Europe?
-Evaluate the roles of the United States and the Reagan and Bush administrations, as well as the changes within the Soviet Union, in bringing about the end of the Cold War.
-Why did the Cold War end?
-What were the costs of the Cold War, both human and material?
-What are the legacies/lessons of the Cold War?
-What uncertainties or questions remained as the Cold War came to a close? What would come to characterize the 'New World Order' that followed?
Tags: Wilson Center, Cold War, Reagan, Gorbachev, glasnost, perestroika, revolution, Soviet Union, USSR, Communism
-What is the difference between "conservation" and "preservation"? Which view towards nature seems to influence our national parks system today?
-In United States history, there is often a tension between progress and protection, or change and tradition. How is that tension reflected in the story of the national parks system? Consider the economic demands of a growing nation and the impulse to make the natural world accessible to all members of U.S. society.
Tags: Parks, environment, conservation, preservation, Muir, Sierra Club, Roosevelt
The issue presents curriculum-spanning ways of teaching about arachnids. Includes teacher background, lessons, and a bilingual student page. Click on the PDF icon to download.
In lesson plans in this issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom, students gain a basic understanding of money and economics by exploring the currency system of the Akan people of Ghana in West Africa. Click on the PDF icon to download the issue.
In this issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom, portraits of Benjamin Franklin introduce his writings and scientific experiments. Students do their own writing and conduct their own experiments. In addition, they learn about the international scientific community in which Franklin was a prominent member.
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This 1985 issue of Art to Zoo takes students on a guided tour of the invention process, from dreams to the reality. It includes a “pull-out page” detailing the early history of the photograph. Click the PDF icon to see the issue.
This 1997 the issue of Art to Zoo was an attempt to dispel the mysteries that still surrounded the Internet. It includes a tutorial on using Adobe Acrobat Reader and an introduction to Smithsonian websites. Click the PDF icon to download the issue.
Activities in this issue of Art to Zoo introduce students to gardening and plants. Knowledge of plant parts and products is tested after a class visit to a garden. The students themselves grow a crop that seems to mean more to us now than it did when the issue was published in 1983: the currently fashionable kale. Click the PDF icon to download the issue.