HUMOR AND MARINE PAINTINGS OFFER SUMMER ESCAPES AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART.
Two shows are currently on view at Washington’s National Gallery of Art (NGA)--one will entertain and enlighten viewers about the role of humor expressed in prints and drawings since the Renaissance, and the other shows the importance of maritime fleets and the sea during the Dutch 18th century. The first show, Sense of Humor: Caricature, Satire, and the Comical inPrints and Drawings from Leonardo to R. Crumb hangs in the West Wing Galleries until January 6, 2019; Water, Wind, and Waves, Marine Paintings fromthe Dutch Golden Age may also be viewed in the West Wing until November 25, 2018. Both are stunning and memorable exhibitions, unique and timely. We rarely think of fine art as humorous, but humor was used since the Renaissance very seriously—as caricature, social criticism and satire, as well as to explore the comical in everyday life. The show, totaling 100 prints and drawings, hangs chronologically in three galleries starting with the Renaissance with works by the schools of Leonardo da Vinci (an early caricature called Two Grotesque Heads), and Joseph De Ribera (The Drunken Silenius). By the 17th and 18th centuries timely and provocative satire is shown in images by William Hogarth (Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn), Honore Daumier (The Legislative Belly, and James Gilray (Midas, Transmuting All Into Paper—in which William Pitt, the Prime Minister, as King Midas digests gold and excretes worthless paper to an outrages public!.The third and final gallery includes a bit more rib-tickling works such as Andy Warhol’s Vote McGovern which is a large lurid screen-print of former President Richard Nixon humorously supporting his opponent Senator George McGovern! A satirical civil right’s theme attacks the stereotyped familiar image of a smiling black chef advertizing Cream of Wheat, a screen-print called No More O’ This Shit. One showstopper features Roy Lichtenstein’s Swee’Pea of Popeye fame, in a satirical takeoff on the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch’s The Scream –and shows a large comic figure of an open mouthed baby screaming and showing its discontent; it can be seen through the entrance doors of the three galleries.
Water, Wind, and Waves Marine Paintings from the Dutch Golden Age features 45 paintings, drawings, prints, rare books, and large ship models highlighting 18th century artists such as Aelbert Cuyp, Rembrandt, and Hendrick Vroom. The exhibition explores the importance of the sea and water during the so-called Golden Age. The sea was a common denominator during the Golden Age. Those tall triple mast war ships ruled the oceans during important battles, notably the wars in which the Dutch became independent from the Spanish throne. The important battles are superbly painted by the Dutch masters and include William van de Velde the Younger’ s paintings of naval victories over the English and Aelbert Cuyp’s historical The Maas at Dordrecht showing a variety of vessels ranging from warships to small crafts. Don’t miss examining the 6 large models oships from the Dutch Golden Age all rare and accurate reproductions of the parent vessels. Enjoy an escape from the humidity of Washington by musing over the skating scenes by Aert van der Neer, and Hendrick Avercamp!
This article hopes to encourage photographers, amateur and professional, to take advantage of an exhibition of 115 photographs by Sally Mann (b.1951) at the National Gallery of Art (NGA). The show, Sally Mann: A ThousandCrossings may be seen until May 28 in the West Building. The NGA is now one of the largest repositories of Mann’s photographs following the acquisition of 25 prints from the merger with the Corcoran Gallery. It is a disturbing, inspiring, educational viewing designed into five sections: Family. The Land, Last Measure, Abide With Me, and What Remains. The photos were taken between 1970 and 2000, and tell a poignant story of the life and environment of the Southern States filtered through her special vision. Section One, “Family” includes portraits of children and family members, nude, vulnerable, and strikingly unemotional, disturbing. She describes “the radical light of the South” in another section—the somber tones of the woodlands and seacoasts, and the images of Civil War sites such as Antietam, Appomattox, and Fredericksburg. Many of the portraits and other images shown were taken with the old 8x10 format cameras using antique lenses using the 19th century collodion wet plates. There is a special beauty rendered by this difficult processing technique, especially since Mann intentionally kept the smudges, scratches, and light flares embedded into the prints to add to her aesthetic decisions. In the film in the exhibition Mann demonstrates the late 19th Century collodion wet plate process used for many of the large prints on display. It is a cumbersome and labor-intensive process in which a syrupy collodion base is applied to a glass plate, covered with light sensitive silver nitrate, drained and exposed in the camera. Mann remarked that the large format prints had more aesthetic impact than smaller format cameras. This observation may be challenged by contemporary photographers anchored to the speed and convenience of the digital world. The NGA provides a 332-page catalogue with the expected high quality research provided by Sarah Greenough, Senior Curator NGA, and Sarah Kennel, Curator of Photography, Peabody Essex Museum. The catalogue is available at shop.ngs.gov or 202-842-6002.
(Marshall H. Cohen).
Michel Sittow: Estonian Painter at the Courts of Renaissance Europe