A World of Art: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

America is a land of great museums and

every museum has spellbinding stories to

tell the Met has under one roof

absolutely every civilization every

culture museum it's really a collection

of collection you don't see a painting

by you see a gallery full the permanent

collection here is extraordinary

walk a world of art at the Metropolitan

Museum of Art in New York City next on

great museums

major funding for great museums is

provided by the Eureka foundation

dedicated to the educational power of

television and new media exercise or

curiosity explore America's great

museums one of the architectural glories

of New York City Metropolitan Museum of

Art stretches 1,000 feet long 5th Avenue

on Central Park

the founders of the match we're talking

about 1870 wanted a museum in which many

representative examples of the great

harlot world could be presented we've

shown over the last 130 140 years that

some of the great treasures of mankind

could be acquired and are in fact here

inside is a dazzling three-dimensional

encyclopedia of world art overwhelming

in the variety and outstanding quality

of its collections you can walk in the

door and literally work through the

entire history of human creation from

its earliest forms through

through today you have to figure out

your place in that in that universe of

art in which direction he'll go vast

galleries and storage vaults of the two

million square foot museum overflow with

more than 2 million objects some are

grouped in visual narratives others

celebrated on pedestals all invite our

attention most people who are not very

familiar with our collection are

surprised to see so many famous familiar

paintings key works in the history of

art and here they are hanging on our

walls there's something absolutely

thrilling about seeing the work itself

the running text is aah oh my goodness

that's so pretty I didn't realize that

was so rad

that's a response that's good but I can

say to all of you looking is when you

come before a work of art if it doesn't

immediately speak to you

cause wait a now the work of art to

yield its message

over 3,000 years ago an Egyptian

sculptor created this masterpiece in

yellow Jasper it is so powerful so

engaging even though it is a fragment

clearly broken part of a larger

sculpture look at those strong red lips

that wonderful line underneath it the

way that light hits the cheeks and the

hollow of the cheek it's just one of the

great works of Egyptian art on a great

sculptures of any civilization curators

at the Metropolitan Museum of Art must

decide for this day and age what makes a

masterpiece well first there has to be

skill but then you can have all the

skill in the world and not be able to

communicate the spiritual ones serenity

chaos love

innocence power

desire remorse it's that fundamental

human quality in the end that

distinguishes a great master a great

anything el Greco working in Spain some

400 years ago

surely painted from the soul the

expressive nature of El Greco's

paintings ly the the exaggerated

proportions of his figures and the

soulful expression but the real magic to

me is the poetry of the hands the Dutch

master van Gogh poured his emotions onto

the canvas

the result was not accidental it was

deliberate every single brush stroke has

been applied with a very precise

movement of the hand the American

painter Thomas Eakins was exacting in

his realist portraits of humanity that

is a painting of great mathematical

precision incredible perspective light

color if you look deep into the distance

you see Aikens himself in the distant

boat works by some of the most

celebrated painters in the history of

art are in the Mets European collection

here is Rubens portrait of the artist

with his second wife and their then

youngest child you can see his love for

her and she is the embodiment of ideal

beauty and all the things you see in the

painting are all symbols of this love

affair that brought forth this sort of

second blooming in Rubens is life and

was the inspiration of many of his

finest works you're dealing with one of

the greatest artists who ever lived the

evidence is clear the Western painting

tradition focused on figure color and

paint in the east the Chinese masters

celebrated the energy of the lion

painting in China did not feel the need

to use bright colors and that has to do

with the tradition of calligraphy and

valuing the quality of line one of the

earliest paintings in the collection

dates to the eighth century at the

portrait of a horse by the renowned

horse painter hangang in the lure of

horses in China a great horse was like a

dragon and this fiery spirit is I think

what the artist was really trying to

capture the same energy courses through

all things they call it cheap whether

it's the mountains and trees animals as

human beings so for an artist to tap

into that by spontaneously using his

brush to capture his own energy somehow

he imparts new life the pictorial image

surrounding the borders of the paintings

are the written comments and red seals

of past owners so you have 1,200 years

of history recorded as part of the

object it adds it adds a sense of the

linkage between the viewer who opens it

today and all of these other people

who've appreciated in the past at the

heart of the Chinese collection is a

scholars garden I think everybody loves

this garden because you come in you have

a sense of tranquility you've been

transported to another world that is in

essence what much of Chinese painting

tries to achieve

it's a mountain of the mind it's a

landscape of the imagination and it's

intended for the viewer to somehow lose

himself or herself in this other world

one can walk the world within the walls

of the Metropolitan Museum of Art cone

the continents of Asia America Africa

come face to face with the art of Egypt

Europe Greece and Rome what one sees at

the Met is all of those civilizations

represented under this one roof

well you know the meds it's it's sort of

an odd place because it grew up through

topsy-turvy physically the spaces the

building was sort of added to it's not a

place where you get a linear view of

anything behind the splendid fifth

avenue BOS Arts facade beyond the

majestic Great Hall between the

brilliantly modern atrium wings is the

Met of the 19th century the 1888

exterior now forms the interior wall of

the Petrie European sculpture court and

deep inside is the museum's first

permanent home a Victorian Gothic

structure opened in 1880 today its

Cathedral like space houses part of the

medieval collection much of its donated

by the man who shaped the Mets

collecting strategy a hundred years ago

the powerful New York financier JP

Morgan JP Morgan was an enormous to

cultivated man passionate about works of

art passionate about history died as

people are fond to say almost a pauper

because he invested almost his entire

fortune in art he himself collected

whole collections Morgan couldn't resist

incredible finds this majestic

Romanesque wooden sculpture of the

Virgin and Child a 16th century Milanese

parade helmet and this important work by

Raphael painted in the early 1500s when

the artist was barely 20

by the early 1900s Morgan was head of

the museum's Board of Trustees he

focused his wealth and vision on Egypt

JP Morgan is responsible for the fact

that the Metropolitan Museum has an

Egyptian Department and morgan

understood that the best way in the

early 20th century of collecting

Egyptian art was to excavate more than

half of the Mets Egyptian collection of

nearly 36,000 objects is derived from

the museum's first 30 years of

archaeological work in Egypt if you walk

around the galleries you can go through

all of Egyptian history you don't just

see the great pieces that are the Kings

you also get a feel for things that

ordinary people would have had and it

brings the culture closer to an

individual viewer which i think is

really important the mummy is one of the

most potent symbols of ancient Egypt its

purpose was to provide a safe haven for

the spirit in the afterlife by

preserving the body one of the most

magical decorations on early coffins are

the two eyes on the side we assume that

the eyes allow the mummy to look out of

the coffin later on you get anthropoid

coffins they're sort of mummy form they

have a face and in those the person is

placed on it his back or her back and

can look out through the face in the

1920s the Mets archeological team made a

spectacular discovery in Thebes at the

ancient tomb of a great noble named

meketa all had been destroyed except one

small hidden chamber untouched since

maquette razuna roll four thousand years

ago what they found inside were twelve

little boxes with scenes inside bakers

and brewers who are making food we have

a stable where the people are forced

feeding cattle preparing them for

slaughter and we have the slaughterhouse

in the afterlife maquette Roe would also

need the service of this goddess and she

is wearing a long

that has a sort of feather pattern on it

only goddesses usually wear feathered

gowns all of the paint on that figure is

just beautifully preserved people who

walk in there think they're models while

they are models but they were made in

about 2000 BC so there are 4000 years

old these monumental statues are of

hatshepsut one of Egypt's few female

Pharaohs at chef suit came to the throne

as regent for her nephew tuck Moses the

third about 20 years after her death

tough Moses the third smashes all of her

monuments eyes and noses even hole faces

were hacked away for three thousand

years the countless fragments lay

scattered in a quarry until the Mets

archaeologists stumbled upon them in the

1920s reassembling the pieces was

painstaking because it's like putting a

puzzle together without the photograph

and you don't have enough pieces and

some of the pieces weigh half a ton and

some of them are as big as your fist the

reassembled statues reveal hatshepsut in

the appearance and attire of a male King

and then we have the beautiful white

statue which a lot of people say looks

feminine and delicate which it does

she's wearing the male kilt and she is

wearing the nimmi's head cloth but for

most people she looks like a more

feminine image

from the boy King Tut to the gargantuan

roman-era temple of Dender a collection

of ancient Egyptian art at the

Metropolitan Museum ranks among the

finest outside Cairo the museum some

people say operates like nineteen little

museums all in one it almost has to

because it's such a big place big enough

to house a grand equestrian court the

Metropolitan museum's collection of arms

armor is probably the most encyclopedic

of any in the world that is we have over

fourteen thousand objects that span

about 1500 years and cover almost every

major civilization of the world in Japan

the counterpart of the knight in shining

armor was the samurai warrior armed with

his famous curved sword Japanese armor

was made of small plates of leather or

iron held together by silk laces it was

form-fitting at the same time that boxy

skirt around the base telescoped up

around the rider on horseback and

created a natural defense around his

midsection this 14th century example is

exceedingly rare

it belonged to ashikaga takauji a

leading general and shogun of japan a

german master craftsman coin slot made

this superb set of horse and body armor

for the Duke of Saxony in the 1530s many

of the objects here are show pieces the

sculptural form the inherent beauty of

the decoration the physical presence of

the objects is overwhelming this field

armor belonged to one of England's

best-known kings and read the 8th

the armor was made about 1544 when henry

much married decided to with a last

spurt of vigor go to war personally for

the first time in over three decades he

mounted a horse and rode off into battle

this time to France taking with him

thousands of English troops with the

idea of capturing Paris his armor was

brilliant his plan was not surprisingly

plate armor was highly functional this

is the gauntlet flying into a field

armor of king philip ii of spain if you

imagine a lobster and the articulation

of its shell and how it moves that's

very much the way that armor moves it's

in miniature a masterpiece of both

anatomical design function and

decoration as in any aspect of the

Metropolitan Museum a closer look is

always the most convincing that we are

indeed in the presence of great works

the extraordinary timelessness of this

place is very humbling it's humbling to

be one of those people who hangs the

works of art and makes the choices in

the 19th century paintings were hung

salon-style frame-to-frame

floor-to-ceiling with the most important

works at eye level in today's American

salon take a turn and suddenly there it

is Emanuel Leutze vision of Washington

Crossing the Delaware it really does

become the icon of the American Way it's

shown again and again and again and

reproduced probably more than any other

picture in our collection a work of art

in the gallery follows for a your

average visitor what I like to call the

precious object tradition that is it's

in the Metropolitan Museum it's on a

pedestal it's clean and shiny it's

beautiful it must be a masterpiece you

walk into the loose Center and we like

to think that we've sort of thrown a

wrench into that the Henry Luce Center

for the Study of American art is a

visible storage area

the loose Center is interesting because

it allows people up front right away to

know the collection from which we're

making our choices the range of objects

is staggering an endless wall of empty

picture frames statuary row after row of

paintings of all kinds the cases are

crowded with silver from all periods

chairs of all styles tables clocks china

shelves of Tiffany glass from one

generation to the next from one curator

the next with a different eye with a

different bias what may be relegated to

the ruse center for one curators pulled

out and put in the primary galleries for

another richly displayed in the American

Way our master works by John Singer

Sargent if you go back and forth between

the Luce Center and the galleries you

get a sense of the range in his work

from student productions

studies for murals all the way through

finished society portraits the concept

behind the lose center goes back to the

whole notion of connoisseurship

connoisseurship being the study of works

of art comparatively in the primary

galleries a comparison of 19th century

landscape painting American style shows

an evolving preoccupation with the

effects of light and atmosphere note the

opalescent sky and water and George

Caleb Bingham spur traders descending

the Missouri and the exciting contrast

gloom and light in Martin Johnson heeds

coming storm there are little narratives

all over the American Way carefully

placed objects meant to tell you some

sort of story or to give you some bit of

information in a gallery filled with

Winslow homers later works his

northeaster blows and bellows with

raging energy nearby in a quiet corner

John Hawkins river scene a masterwork of

American Impressionism provides a safe

harbor there is never a painting hung

next to another without some

consideration of what the two might say

to each other

repose by John Alexander white captures

a carefree moment in which this language

figure seems to float away she shares a

gallery with this bold Beauty by Thomas

anxious titled the rows and the rows

although a small component a mere prop

really becomes a personification of her

doesn't it

there are over 17,000 works in the Mets

American art collection from colonial

times through the early 20th century

throughout the American wing two dozen

period rooms provide context for the

paintings sculpture and decorative arts

on display in our field of American art

we have the right to call ourselves the

most comprehensive collection of

American art in the world

success for an art museum cannot be

measured quantitatively it has to do

with how deeply the museum is able to

make an impact on its visitors in the

Mets 19th century European collection

many of the paintings mostly French are

incomparable the corbeil will move the

parrot it's a shocking painting curved

A's handling of paint his depiction of

flesh is sufficiently realistic as to

cause very strong reactions on the part

of yours today another woman with a

parrot dwells nearby this one by core

Bay's rival Edouard Manet almost

certainly a satirical commentary on core

Bay's nude of course 19th century Paris

was also the center of the

Impressionists universe

the stories are as simple as walking

through a hay field with poppies on a

beautiful sunny day all you have to do

is be human to recognize the pleasure in

such an image at the Met there are water

lilies by Monet sunflowers and cypresses

by Van Gogh apples and primroses by

Cezanne a parade of early works by

Gauguin and Matisse and Renoir's

stunning group portrait Madame

Charpentier and her children in other

words the most important collection of

impressionist and post-impressionist

painting in America key works came from

the peerless private collection of a

true art connoisseur who is een have a

minor wife of the sugar baron h OU have

a meyer luisina have Amaya became

much a student of art in addition to

simply a connector a master of objects

as a teenager she visited Paris in 1874

where she met and befriended the

American artist Mary Cassatt she became

a devoted collector of Cassatt's work

not merely for the companionship because

she saw how beautiful the paintings were

how great they would become in young

world her sewing by Mary Cosette you see

some of her most popular imagery the

imagery that she's best known for that

is the the subject of mothers and


she used friends and family in her

compositions painting them quite quite

beautifully and showing herself to be

every bit the worthy colleague of the

great French Impressionists guided by

Cosette Lewis scene Havemeyer became one

of the earliest collectors of

Impressionism above all she favored

Edgar Digga she wanted to have early

works and late works she wanted to have

finished paintings as well as in formal

studies what she made was an exhaustive

and comprehensive collection of his work

which makes me believe that she fully

understood his achievement and wanted to

document it - dancers practicing at the

bar is an example of de gAHS wit at play

the fact that he included a watering can

at the bottom left mimicking with its

spout the angle of the dancers feet

his cleverness in making a visual

analogy an entire gallery at the Met is

devoted to the Havemeyer collection of

Degas bronze sculptures featuring his

twin fascinations horses and ballerinas

center stage in the heavy mire

collection is Degas irresistible 14 year

old dancer standing tall at 3 feet 3

inches all-in-all Liu is een Havemeyer

collected the largest and most complete

collection of de gAHS work ever form and

all of this really for the Metropolitan

I mean the Metropolitan was always in in

her mind as the ultimate recipient of

the collection Museum is really a

collection of collections as a result we

have sweeps of objects that really tell

a story in a more complex and complete

manner than if we were to buy a single

example the Met is a vast storehouse of

art knowledge and inspiration it's a

place to return to over and over again

to savor in small doses to lose yourself

in thought or to immerse yourself in the

wonders of human creativity once you

become comfortable you'll discover again

think the things that mean most to you

you could indeed come back again and

again and again over the years and learn

something new every single time it is

only a short walk from Jackson Pollock's

autumn rhythm to the abstract elegance

of Egyptian hieroglyphs from an indian

goddess parvati tacticians Venus and

Adonis from a bronze head by Picasso to

a West African relic

the met is in fact several museums in

one nothing that's one of his great

advantages because it means that you can

make those wonderful comparisons

opposition's contrasts it's all there

and one is traveling the globe

since its founding in 1870 the

Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

City has amassed a most impressive

collection of art in the Western

Hemisphere the Met has under one roof

absolutely every civilization every

culture for 5,000 years of recorded

history and that is absolutely unique

the aura that is conveyed is one of

majesty walk into that Great Hall with

its flowers and people and high ceilings

and it's a monumental space and it

speaks of the ages it is also dynamic

constantly enriching its collections the

permanent collection here is

extraordinary you come here you don't

see a painting by Ruben you see a

gallery full you see early works and

ladies you see the earliest and the

latest you the visitor may say I don't

see much in this well that may very well

be there is no right and there is no

wrong and what the art museum does is it

awakens in the visitor it sends the

critical evaluation

in the 130 plus years of our history the

mission the chartered bylaws museum has

scarcely changed remains to acquire to

preserve to publish and to make

accessible the great art of the world in

1870 this Roman sarcophagus was the very

first object to enter the collections of

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art

from there bloom the Mets magnificent

Greek and Roman Department here the

ancient Mediterranean world comes alive

in bronze terracotta jewelry glass and

marble the Joe Harris gallery paves the

way is wonderful vaulted gallery are

flooded with light we're from one moment

of the day to the other the sculpture

changes is the knight sculpt the

sculptures and it was a timelessness of

Greek art and Roman art which I think

encourages us to look at them over and

over again like the image on this

terracotta vase attributed to the

classical Greek painter you fro Gnaeus

you fron is arguably the most noble and

the most accomplished of the early bred

figure painters the way the composition

is framed by two standing figures the

balance of the red

the black and the beautiful use of

ornaments the scene depicts the hero

Sarpedon being carried from the

battlefield by the personifications of

sleep and death it is a noble grand

scene the Greeks learned monumental

sculpture for the most part from Egypt

the ancient Egyptian influence on Greek

sculpture is evident in the rigid pose

of early male figures known as qu ROI

which often marked graves and ours is

one of the earliest to have survived in

good condition and each generation shows

the male figure in a more naturalistic

portrayal by the fifth century BC Greek

sculptors had perfected classical form

here is the wounded warrior it's a bold

composition figure in great action and

yet we know that he's about to collapse

most Greek sculptures survived today

through marble copies made by Roman

artists the Greek originals were bronze

and were melted down or rusted away but

the Romans were artists in their own

right this row of portrait busts

represents 300 years of Roman sculpture

from the first century to the fourth you

can in a way see that the old Gamlen of

the Roman Empire on one fell swoop so

powerful is the classical tradition of

Greece and Rome that for more than 2,000

years it has defined the Western view of

beauty this great 19th century work by

Antonio Canova shows Perseus son of Zeus

holding the head of Medusa whose gaze

could turn mortals to stone the Perseus

is one of the great sculptures the new

Classical period both in terms of its


purity of line and I think it holds a

position of great honor and Majesty in

the middle of that court Perseus is male

body beautiful from the Western point of

view here is the Asian Indian ideal of

female perfection the shapely figure of

the celestial dancing devata is

beautiful though her contorted pose is

utterly fantastic ancient Indian

sculpture from the area now known as

Pakistan reflects the definite influence

of the West most likely the results of

Alexander the Great's conquests or first

century trade with Rome in striking

contrast is the pure Indian aesthetic

developed around the fifth century

during India's Classical Age the Gupta

period the Gupta period is a period of

transformation where finally Indian art

really comes into its own

this Gupta Buddha is one of the great

icons of Indian art the nose like a

parrot's beak the eyebrows like an

archers bow the folds of the robe

although you sense the body beneath

there's also the sense of this

dematerialization that's going on in

front of you the unique artistic

vocabulary of literary metaphors is

fully realized in this superb bronze of

the hindu goddess parvati in this case

you'll notice the extremely narrow waist

which is likened to a damaru

a kind of an Indian drum that's that is

hourglass shaped the breasts are like

ripe melon

the head is like an egg the left arm is

like an elephant's trunk there's almost

no sign of the elbow

not all sculpture at the Met is metal or

stone these three-dimensional treasures

were sculpted from cloth in the Mets

Costume Institute conservators care for

a collection of clothing that spans

seven centuries and five continents what

we do here is interpret of these objects

as our this is really really typical of

the 18th century where the interior the

Mets costume art collection contains

nearly 80,000 individual pieces from

fashionable dress and regional clothing

to shoes undergarments and even buttons

and people are always really shocked

because of the size but at this time

men's buttons were enormous and they're

really a large decorative element on a

tailcoat this row of eighteenth-century

court dresses is ready for inspection

and conservation this fabric alone was

very very closely you can see all the

gold and the silver in the 18th century

there was a spectacular manifestation of

women's dress called the panty 8 gown we

have an English Court gown with the most

extraordinary of elbow shaped panties

they stick straight out out of the side

of the waist

and drop straight down on either side

the Costume Institute at the Met seeks

out master works of clothing and design

that advance the art of fashion but that

doesn't mean to say that we don't also

enjoy hearing someone say I would never

wear that or I would love to wear

built on the shoulders of capitalism the

Metropolitan Museum of Art owes many of

its treasures to the enormous wealth and

generosity of America's captains of

business and industry and many of them

in fact formed their collections with

the Metropolitan in mind financial giant

Robert leamon spent a lifetime

assembling what would become one of the

greatest private collections of the 20th

century Robert leamon and his father

Philips we're collectors on a very grand

scale and its collection which stands on

its own in its own wing at the Met

the Lehmann collection is uniquely

displayed in rooms that evoke the

setting of a private home you can put

yourself in any of the armchairs in

liman wing stay there as long as you

please and imagine that you too have an

El Greco over the fireplace there are

very few categories of art that are left

out of the Lehmann collection Lehman's

personal favorite was this portrait

by the 19th century French artist hang

the ank portrait of the priceless debris

is widely considered one of the most

beautiful paintings in the world all the

textures and details portrayed with such

brilliant accuracy as to leave almost

nothing to the imagination but in the

most positive possible sense

Lehman's real passion was art by the

italian painters of the early

renaissance preeminent among them

Botticelli early Italian artists were

restrained not only by their subject

matter religion but also by their medium

they paid it mostly on wood with tempera

a mixture of pigment water and egg yolk

but superior skills and fertile

imaginations triumphed over the

limitations of the paint and surface

here Giovanni DePaulo depicts two scenes

from the 15th century view of the

universe the creation and the expulsion

in the center of the painting is a small

disc which represents earth around earth

are the spheres of the four elements and

the known planets

and God the Father on a cloud of angels

floats in from the left and sets all the

spheres in motion which will initiate

the cycle of creation painted barely

five years later but a world away the

detailed sophistication of this painting

by Flemish artist Petrus Christus was

due in part to the recent invention of

oil paint which would revolutionize the

Western art world titled st. Eligius the

patron saint of Goldsmith's it shows a

young couple come to seek a wedding ring

a mirror reflects to on lookers outside

behind the goldsmith our rings coral

crystal cups gold work the sort of thing

that you would find in Tiffany's five

hundred years ago of the Dutch and

Flemish I would say that there is much

more emphasis upon rendering the

surfaces the the material has about it a

kind of heightened realism perhaps the

most inspired early practitioner of

painting with oils was Yann Van Eyck his

crucifixion and Last Judgement hang in

the Mets comprehensive European painting

department in his hands painting in oil

is raised to perfection and with oil

glazes he's able to describe with his

brush unbelievable details the rural

life is the subject of Pieter Bruegel's

masterpiece the harvesters the artist is

no longer using a religious subject to

show a landscape these are working

people peasants who have been taking a

break for their noonday meal and some of

my fall asleep and you can see them

stretched out on the hay

and extraordinary details throughout the

entire picture the 17th century was the

Golden Age of Dutch and Flemish painting

the period of the old masters the Met

has rooms filled with Rembrandt Rubens

and the rarest of all Vermeer if you

come to the Met you don't see one

Vermeer you see five it's extraordinary

you see one of the earliest known works

and you see a very characteristic label

and then you see a one of the greatest

of all which is the woman with the

silver jug he's able in the small canvas

to describe this entire world centered

around this woman as she's doing her

household chores in this beautiful light

that illuminates the scene the miracle

of oil spread throughout Europe from

Titian and Raphael in Italy della tour

and Posada in France to diego velázquez

in spain every painter who's lived

admires the way he handled a brush

while in Rome Velasquez painted his

Moorish servant as a warm-up exercise

for a planned portrait of the Pope he's

actually stroking the canvas with the

brush he's not using even a palette in

order to mix the colors he mixed the

colors directly on the canvas next to

where the mantle of master in Spain was

Court painter Francisco Goya the child

looks out kind of innocently there is

evil in the painting you can see in the

shadows these sinister eyes of these

cats that want to jump on the on the

birds and eat them by the 18th century

the practice of oil painting had been

nearly universal for 100 years but

artists working in America had some

catching up to do in colonial times John

Singleton Copley America's first

significant native-born artist

successfully modeled his likenesses of

America's elite after works by English

masters despite his lack of formal

training the only thing about this

picture that is unique to mrs. Bowers is

the face we know that her dress her dog

her sofa her landscape even her hairdo

and her jewelry come from a painting by

Sir Joshua Reynolds of Lady Caroline

Russell and Copley understood his

colonial patrons wanted to keep up with

fashion ability of their London

neighbors until the 19th century most

American painters either weren't

Americans by birth or they trained in

Europe which means that the works that

they painted upon their return are

necessarily international in flavor this

would include the great portrait of

George Washington by Charles Wilson

Peale who studied in London prior to

fighting in the Revolutionary War and

this familiar image by Gilbert Stuart by

the time he was a teenager he had left

for England and didn't come back for 20

years he returned in 1793 to paint the

nation's founding father and greatest

hero American Thomas Sully aimed to

paint true royalty Queen Victoria this

small canvas is the oil study that Sully

carried back and forth to Buckingham

Palace for his sittings with the Queen

beside it hangs the finished masterpiece

Sully was the first American painter to

portray Queen Victoria

he found her so delightful and charming

that he wrote in his diary that he he

hoped that he could give us

the the kind manner and dignity of the

young Queen born in England but long

resident in Philadelphia sully worked

three of the conventions that tied

English court painters this isn't to say

that he painted a rakish image but the

idea that Queen Victoria would be

literally ascending the throne climbing

the staircase up to the throne and

looking back over her bare shoulder is

really extraordinary the best of late

19th century American portraiture tends

to be something more than

straightforward likenesses even realist

Thomas Eakins seems to paint

psychological profiles this portrait of

his wife was reworked to increase the

pathos of her expression the master of

American portraiture was John Singer

Sargent his provocative painting madam x

is the anchor work in a gallery devoted

to images of society folk what's such a

stunningly beautiful and striking image

just like the woman was herself

the woman was Madame Gautreaux the New

Orleans born wife of a French banker she

became one of the most notorious

beauties of Paris in the 1880s the short

version of the story is that when

Sargent painted at the shoulder strap of

the dress that she's wearing was falling

down off one arm and that and itself

created such a degree of attention that

he was asked to fix the strap to put it

back on her shoulder when sergeant sold

Madame X to the Met in 1916 he supposed

it was the best work he'd ever done

initially scorned by the establishment

the impressionist painters of the late

19th century are now universally admired

as the first true expressions of the

modern spirit the Annenberg collection

at the Met boasts over 50 impressionist

and early modern masterpieces Renoir van

Gogh began Braque and this early

self-portrait by Picasso the collection

was built with the fortune made by

publishing magnate Walter Annenberg

creator of TV Guide by the time the Anna

Birds began collecting in earnest in the

1960s and 70s these artists were very

famous very expensive artists the

annenberg contributed more than a half

dozen of Van Gogh's works to the museum

in the 1990s complementing other

paintings by Van Gogh already in the

Mets permanent collection a visitor here

can come across the rather rude

beginnings of Van Gogh's art that

earnest self-taught struggling artist

who became ultimately a consummate


the crowning glory came in 1993 when

Walter Annenberg and his wife Lea

acquired wheat field with cypresses for

the met it's one of the great paintings

of the 19th century it's one of the

sublime works of Van Gogh the strong

colors the artists touch the impasto you

can see the visible traces of the

artists work left on the canvas

grains of seed that were literally

blowing in the wind that day so fresh

was the paint and so fervid was his

painting manner that these seeds were

embedded in the paint surface this was a

picture also from the point of view of

Van Gogh's own career that emerged out

one of the darkest moments of his life

in 1889 he summarizes his own discovery

of the importance of Cyprus it's

symbolism representing death the Cypress

appearing in all of the cemeteries

France and also that soaring shape

leading to the skies and to heaven the

great masters of any time or place

strive not to copy but to create their

own unique visions which is why there

will always be something called modern

art at the Met modern art begins with

the 20th century a stroll through the

galleries reveals an astonishing

diversity of creative expression given

to the human form Modigliani

Miro Picasso early twentieth-century

modernists pursuing cubism and Fauvism

were intrigued by the unfamiliar ways in

which primitive cultures depicted the

human form the influence of African

masks is evident in this bronze by

picasso african masks made to propitiate

the gods have a tremendous power but

they are also harbingers of some of the

best abstract art created in the West

which is why people like Park can

because so connected

African mats this finely carved ivory

mask is from the 16th century West

African kingdom of Benin it's believed

to portray the mother of the Oba or

ruler we basically in this museum see to

include the art of the entire world and

the arts of Africa Oceania and the

Americas represent a very significant

portion of that art and this actually

includes most of the arts and cultures

of the world our holdings in the arts of

Africa Oceania and Mesoamerica opened

the eye to the ineluctable fact that it

is in a nature of man to want to express

themselves even in the most ordinary

objects in in an aesthetic way in the

early 20th century these objects were

regarded as ethnographic material better

suited for a Natural History Museum but

New York politician Nelson Rockefeller

saw them as art as did his son Michael

and Michael was very enthusiastic about

his father's passion for art

particularly art from the Pacific and so

after he graduated from college he

decided that he was going to go

personally to New Guinea which he did it

ultimately cost him his life reportedly

in 1961 he tried to swim ashore when the

motor on his boat failed his body was

never found the Michael C rockefeller

wing at the Met opened in 1982 some of

the most striking pieces were collected

by Michael himself Michael spent some

time in the highlands of New Guinea but

he spent the majority of his time down

with the Asmat people the Asmat people

are prolific and accomplished wood

carvers they are also headhunters

the towering beach poles form one of the

most dramatic displays I think in the

entire museum the figure at the top

represents an Asmat warrior recently

killed in battle each pole is carved

from a single upside-down tree while the

top of the tree points to the ground the

remaining root representing the phallus

of the pole is fashioned into a

projecting wing with intricate carvings

of enemies killed by the warrior so in a

way the carvings can be said to

represent a resume in Oceania there are

1200 different cultures and languages

and hundreds of religions and artistic

traditions a common practice in oceanic

cultures was ancestor worship now these

may be fantastic creatures but the

people who create them these are what

these beings look like from the

polynesian islands this giant slit gong

is basically a musical instrument a wide

hollowed-out tree trunk forms the body

of the ancestor Hara surrounds the face

with its large plate like eyes and a

long slit mouth down the front there was

often a special carver who made only the

nose one of the things that I always

asked myself was why would somebody make

an image like this the questions like

the world of art itself are never-ending

the Metropolitan Museum of Art's mission

requires that it remain a

work-in-progress no Museum in the world

stops connecting no matter how much you

have there are always gaps one never has

so complete a picture that you can

simply close the book will never know

everything that of course is the joy of

scholarship there's always something


and to know that's the wonder of works

of art their unfathomable you cannot

complete them you cannot complete them

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