OwlTail

Cover image of National Gallery of Art | Talks

National Gallery of Art | Talks

Messages, meanings, movements—how does art history help us understand our world? Join curators, historians, artists, musicians and filmmakers as they explore art and its histories in a search for our shared humanity. Download the programs, then visit us on the National Mall or at www.nga.gov, where you can explore many of the works of art mentioned.

Popular episodes

All episodes

The best episodes ranked using user listens.

Podcast cover

Celebrating the Old Master Collections of the National Gallery of Art: French Art of the 18th Century

David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art The 2019 Summer Sunday Lecture Series focuses on the outstanding collections of old master paintings in the National Gallery of Art, and also includes a discussion of the extraordinary American furniture from the Kaufman Collection, currently on view on the ground floor of the West Building. Over the decades, appreciation of French eighteenth-century art has fluctuated between preference for the alluring decorative canvases of rococo artists such as François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard to admiration for the sober neoclassicism championed by Jacques-Louis David and his pupils. In this final lecture in the series, presented on August 25, David Gariff, senior lecturer, surveys the history of French art in the eighteenth century from the time of Louis XIV to the French Revolution. In addition to works by Boucher, Fragonard, and David, scenes of daily life by Antoine Watteau, Jean-Siméon Chardin, and Jean-Baptiste Greuze are discussed.

51mins

22 Oct 2019

Rank #1

Podcast cover

Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: New Insights and Discoveries

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., curator of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art. Exhibitions always provide opportunities for seeing works of art with fresh eyes. Rarely, however, have the comparisons of much-beloved paintings, such as those brought together in Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry, yielded so many insights about artistic achievement and the creative process. The landmark exhibition examines the artistic exchanges among Johannes Vermeer and his contemporaries from the mid-1650s to around 1680, when they reached the height of their technical ability and mastery of genre painting, or depictions of daily life. In this lecture held on January 7, 2018, Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. discusses some of these revelations and how they help explain the enduring impact of Vermeer's paintings. Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting is on view at the National Gallery of Art through January 21, 2018.

51mins

23 Jan 2018

Rank #2

Similar Podcasts

Podcast cover

Abstraction and Its Capacities

David Getsy, Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History and chair, department of art history, theory, and criticism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago. To celebrate the publication of Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender, David Getsy presented a lecture at the National Gallery of Art on October 25, 2015. The book examines abstract sculpture in the 1960s that came to propose unconventional and open accounts of bodies, persons, and genders. Drawing on transgender and queer theory, Getsy offers innovative and archivally rich new interpretations of artworks by, and critical writing about, four major artists—Dan Flavin (1933–1996), Nancy Grossman (b. 1940), John Chamberlain (1927–2011), and David Smith (1906–1965). Abstract Bodies makes a case for abstraction as a resource in reconsidering gender’s multiple capacities and offers an ambitious contribution to this burgeoning interdisciplinary field.

51mins

27 Oct 2015

Rank #3

Podcast cover

Tintoretto Lecture Series, Part 1—Tintoretto in Context: Framing Tintoretto: Sixteenth-Century Venetian Painting

Eric Denker, senior lecturer and manager of gallery talks and lectures for adults, National Gallery of Art On the occasion of the exhibition of Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice, Eric Denker, senior lecturer at the National Gallery of Art, presents a four-part lecture series examining Jacopo Tintoretto’s work in the context of 16th-century Venetian art, history, and culture. In the first lecture, “Tintoretto in Context: Framing Tintoretto: Sixteenth-Century Venetian Painting,” held on April 16, 2019, Denker discusses Venetian Renaissance painting beginning with Giovanni Bellini, his workshop, and his followers, in the second half of the 15th century. Giorgione and Titian were among his most prominent pupils, developing out of Bellini’s linear style the more atmospheric color, light, and shadow characteristic of Venetian High Renaissance oil painting. Though Titian would dominate the painting of large-scale altarpieces and decorations in Venice during the first half of the 16th century, rivals influenced by contemporary central Italian art appeared in Venice by the 1520s and ’30s. Artists including Pordenone and Andrea Schiavone provided alternative sources of style and imagery for both painters and patrons.

51mins

2 Jul 2019

Rank #4

Most Popular Podcasts

Podcast cover

Introduction to the Exhibition—Cézanne Portraits

Mary Morton, curator and head, department of French paintings, National Gallery of Art. Bringing together some 60 paintings drawn from collections around the world, Cézanne Portraits is the first exhibition devoted exclusively to this often neglected area of Paul Cézanne’s work. To celebrate the exhibition opening on March 25, 2018, Mary Morton introduces the pictorial and thematic characteristics of Cézanne’s portraits, the chronological development of his style and method, and the range and influence of his sitters. Issues of resemblance and identity are addressed across groupings of particular great portraits, which mutually inform each other to reveal arguably the most personal, because most human, aspect of his art. The sole American venue, Cézanne Portraits is on view on through July 1, 2018.

51mins

27 Mar 2018

Rank #5

Podcast cover

Weather in Art: From Symbol to Science

David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art Offered in conjunction with the exhibition True to Nature: Open-Air Painting in Europe, 1780–1870 on view at the National Gallery of Art February 2 – May 3, 2020, senior lecturer David Gariff discusses shifting definitions and visual explorations of weather in European painting. In this lecture, presented on February 26, 2020, at the National Gallery of Art, Gariff investigates how approaches to painting the effects of weather — storms, rain, snow, wind, floods, and cloud formations — slowly transform from symbolic portrayals in religious, mythological, and history paintings to more scientific and empirical depictions of weather, reflecting the influence of the new science of meteorology emerging in the nineteenth century.

51mins

10 Mar 2020

Rank #6

Podcast cover

Abstract Expressionism

David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art, August 14, 2018. From the mid-1940s through the 1950s painters in New York imbued their work with a heady new confidence, scale, and energy. Before and during World War II European émigrés poured into New York, including artists Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, Piet Mondrian, and the writer and surrealist leader André Breton. Their influence led to the exploration of biomorphic forms, archaic themes, and accidental processes designed to unleash the unconscious, like dripping and scraping. It is in the large canvases of the 1950s, by Jackson Pollock and others, that what one critic called “the triumph of American painting” can really be felt. These paintings increased ambition and introduced new techniques: Pollock’s rhythmic pours and drips, Clyfford Still’s dry palette-knifing, Newman’s masking-taped “zips,” Franz Kline’s chiseled gestures, and Joan Mitchell’s flurries of strokes. This generation of artists revealed new horizons in the practice of painting and the experience of viewing. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the triumph of American painting in postwar America. This lecture was presented on August 14, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

51mins

11 Sep 2018

Rank #7

Podcast cover

Watching Thinking: Self-Reflection and the Study of Process in Drawing

Charles Ritchie, artist and associate curator, department of modern prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art As an artist who has worked behind the scenes with the prints and drawings collections of the National Gallery of Art for 35 years, associate curator Charles Ritchie relishes his unique vantage point for watching artists think. He has an intimate view of everything from the sketching, erasing, and refining at the core of drawing, to studying the sequences of proof impressions that record the development of a print. On March 25, 2019, as part of the Works in Progress series at the National Gallery of Art, Ritchie shares how his own drawing, journal keeping, and printmaking have been influenced by what he’s learned. The presentation offers a collection of his observations.

51mins

16 Apr 2019

Rank #8

Podcast cover

Early Picasso and Cubism

David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. After shattering representational tradition with cubism, which he developed with Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso became the artistic visionary against whom most others measured their creativity throughout the 20th century. Born in Málaga, Spain, in 1881, Picasso attended art schools and aligned his sensibilities with bohemian writers and artists in Barcelona and Madrid. After early work inspired by El Greco, symbolism, and the sinuous curvatures of art nouveau, Picasso began to find his own vision. The art he made from 1905 to 1915 unleashed a torrent of originality culminating in the birth of cubism, among the 20th century’s most revolutionary art movements. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the contributions made to 20th-century modernism by Picasso, Braque, and their peers. This lecture was presented on July 24, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

51mins

7 Aug 2018

Rank #9

Podcast cover

Elson Lecture 2016: Cecily Brown

Cecily Brown, artist, in conversation with Harry Cooper, curator and head, department of modern art, National Gallery of Art. Born in London in 1969, Cecily Brown attended the Slade School of Fine Art in the early 1990s, just when such "Young British Artists" as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin were dominating the scene with provocative work. While Brown shared interests with some of them in feminism, sexuality, and mass media, her commitment to the history and practice of painting was distinctive. She moved to New York City in 1994 and has lived and worked there ever since. Brown paints with a fine balance of control and abandon, mining art history and the suggestions of the paint itself. For her inspiration, Brown relies on a variety of two-dimensional sources—from magazines and record album covers to children's books, movies, and a library of exhibition catalogs and monographs including studies of El Greco, Velázquez, Goya, Picasso, Delacroix, Manet, and, present in her most recent work, Degas. Brown's ability to create dense, intricate spaces in which figures emerge from abstraction has earned her recognition as one of the most important contemporary painters. Her work is represented in the National Gallery of Art collection by Girl on a Swing (2004). Brown participated in the 23rd annual Elson Lecture with Harry Cooper on March 10, 2016.

57mins

22 Mar 2016

Rank #10

Podcast cover

The Artist's Sketchbook: A Personal View

Charles Ritchie, artist, and former associate curator, department of modern prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art In this lecture held on October 27, 2019, in conjunction with the month-long Sketching is Seeing program at the National Gallery of Art, Charles Ritchie presents varied approaches to collecting ideas. For example, do artists fill a sketchbook from front to back or do they open it to an empty space and begin working? Does writing accompany the drawings and how might it relate to the images? Are the drawings and/or writings employed for developing skill, or are they compost for the creation of other works, or does the book document completed works? Using his experience as a keeper of a sketchbook/journal, Ritchie explores the creative practices of some of his favorite artists including Isabel Bishop, Paul Cézanne, Eugène Delacroix, Alberto Giacometti, and Edward Hopper, among others, and he touches on formative manuscripts by Emily Dickinson, Jack Kerouac, and Wallace Stevens. The presentation concludes with a meditation on some of the forces at the core of drawing and writing: the desire to remember, the spirit of play and improvisation, and the essential ingredient―curiosity.

51mins

21 Jan 2020

Rank #11

Podcast cover

Pop Art

David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. In all of art history, only one movement dared to predict public and commercial success in its very name. The distinction is appropriate, because pop art was all about commerce and consumption from the beginning. Emerging in mid-1950s Great Britain and soon spreading to the United States, pop was a creature of the postwar boom, when television, advertising, fast food, birth rates, home appliances, and suburban sprawl were quickly changing daily life in the developed world. Works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Claes Oldenburg reflect a new syntax of imagery drawn from popular culture and mass media, devoid of exalted art historical themes and the personal expression that were hallmarks of abstract expressionist painting. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff considers the wide variety of objects, themes, and working methods that characterized pop art and the way it blurred distinctions between high art and popular culture. This lecture was presented on August 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

51mins

25 Sep 2018

Rank #12

Podcast cover

Thomas Hart Benton: Painting the Song

Leo G. Mazow, associate professor of art history, University of Arkansas, and guitarist, The Coverlets; Brittany Stephenson, singer, The Coverlets. American artist Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975) used folk and popular song as source material for several of his best-known murals, easel paintings, and prints. Borrowing from such classic tunes as “Jesse James,” “John Henry,” “Wreck of the Old ’97,” and “Frankie and Johnnie,” Benton found in music and lyrics artistic material that could help preserve a quickly vanishing past. In this lecture and music performance presented on November 22, 2015, at the National Gallery of Art, Leo G. Mazow and Brittany Stephenson offer a survey of Benton’s sonic subjects—including train whistles, gunshots, and musical instruments—that figure prominently in his work.

51mins

1 Dec 2015

Rank #13

Podcast cover

Minimalism

David Gariff, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art. Referred to variously as “ABC art” or “primary structures,” minimalism displays the reductive aspects of earlier modernist trends that embraced geometric abstraction in painting and pure geometric forms in sculpture. In direct opposition to their abstract expressionist predecessors, minimalist artists sought to eliminate concepts of self-expression and subjective emotion. Painters and sculptors associated with minimalist practices include Donald Judd, Tony Smith, Dan Flavin, Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, and Robert Mangold. As part of the series Celebrating the East Building: 20th-Century Art, senior lecturer David Gariff surveys the art and theory of minimalism. This lecture was presented on August 28, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art.

51mins

2 Oct 2018

Rank #14

Podcast cover

John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art 2018, Part 10: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs

Anne Whiston Spirn, author, photographer, landscape architect, and Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Many of Dorothea Lange’s photographs from the recent, important gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser appear in her books An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion (1939) and The American Country Woman (1967), in which she paired photographs to expand meaning. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Anne Whiston Spirn looks at a selection of images from this collection in the context of the pair to which they belong and the captions that Lange wrote for them. “I used to think in terms of single photographs. The Bull’s-eye technique. No more. A photographic statement is what I now reach for. Therefore these pairs, like a statement of 2 words.” By the time she wrote this in 1958 Lange had been experimenting with pairing, sequencing, and captions for more than two decades. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

51mins

17 Apr 2018

Rank #15

Podcast cover

Diamonstein-Spielvogel Lecture Series: Alex Katz

Alex Katz, artist, in conversation with Harry Cooper, senior curator and head of modern art, National Gallery of Art. Alex Katz was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1927 and educated at Cooper Union. Although he fraternized in the 1950s with the abstract expressionists, Katz never embraced the gestural style popular in New York, clinging instead to some degree of observation. Yet if Katz's work has always celebrated the realism of quotidian life and landscape, it also incorporates the scale and structure of the ambitious abstract painting of his time. In 1968, Katz moved to an artists’ cooperative building in SoHo, where he has lived and worked ever since. Although he is best known for his figure paintings, often set in and around Manhattan, Katz is equally a painter of Maine, where he has summered for decades. Represented by 89 works in the Gallery’s collection, Katz’s career can be traced through generous gifts like Folding Chair (1959) and Isaac and Oliver (2013), and important acquisitions such as Swamp Maple (4:30) (1968). Most recently, he was commissioned to enhance Manhattan’s 57th Street/6th Avenue subway station interior with Metropolitan Faces, a series of his iconic, brightly colored portraits and flower paintings. Katz was also approved to place a series of cutout sculptures of his wife, Ada, on the median of New York’s Park Avenue. In this conversation held on March 9, 2019, as part of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Lecture Series, Katz and National Gallery of Art senior curator Harry Cooper discuss the genesis and evolution of Katz’s practice over 50 years.

51mins

16 Apr 2019

Rank #16

Podcast cover

Art and Photography in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, Part I

David Gariff, Senior Lecturer, National Gallery of Art In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, this two-part lecture examines art and photography created during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration (from the end of the 19th century to 1922). The Antarctic expeditions of Robert Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton, and Douglas Mawson were the equivalent of NASA’s Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. Antarctica was the last place on earth to be discovered and explored. It was, to many, like going to the moon—and, indeed, photographs of the polar landscape resemble images of the lunar surface. Today, locations on the moon attest to the continuing link between the heroic accomplishments of Antarctic explorers and lunar astronauts. “Shackleton,” named after the Antarctic explorer, is an impact crater at the south pole of the moon. And NASA is now working to send American astronauts to the lunar south pole, a place no human has ever gone before. Artists and photographers, most notably Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley, accompanied the various Antarctic expeditions. These artist-explorers made photographs, films, paintings, and drawings that reveal the triumphs and tragedies of first attempts to reach the South Pole. In Part I of this lecture, presented on November 19, 2019, senior lecturer David Gariff explores the artists and photographers who visually documented the Antarctic continent during this heroic age of 20th-century exploration.

51mins

21 Jan 2020

Rank #17

Podcast cover

The Edmond J. Safra Visiting Professors at the National Gallery of Art: Victor I. Stoichita

Victor Stoichita (Université de Fribourg and former Edmond J. Safra Visiting Professor at the National Gallery of Art) discusses Murillo’s Two Women at a Window in terms of the artist’s preoccupation with two relationships: that between the private space depicted in the painting and the public space of the beholder, and that of the viewer and the viewed.

51mins

1 Jan 2019

Rank #18

Podcast cover

Projections of Memory: Romanticism, Modernism, and the Aesthetics of Film

Richard I. Suchenski, associate professor of film and electronic arts and director of the Center for Moving Image Arts, Bard College; and editor, Hou Hsiao-hsien. In this lecture recorded on September 3, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, Richard I. Suchenski discusses his book, Projections of Memory: Romanticism, Modernism, and the Aesthetics of Film—an exploration of innovative cinematic works that use their extraordinary scope to construct monuments to the imagination through which currents from the other arts can flow. By examining these works, Projections of Memory remaps film history around some of its most ambitious achievements and helps to clarify cinema as a twentieth-century art form. Suchenski addresses some of the core concerns of the book through a discussion of films by Andrei Tarkovsky, Béla Tarr, and Jean-Luc Godard alongside paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, Jacopo Tintoretto, and Matthias Grünewald.

51mins

26 Dec 2017

Rank #19

Podcast cover

The Sixty-Seventh A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts: Positive Barbarism: Brutal Aesthetics in the Postwar Period, Part 3: Georges Bataille and His Caves

Hal Foster, Townsend Martin, Class of 1917, Professor of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University. In the six-part lecture series Positive Barbarism: Brutal Aesthetics in the Postwar Period, Hal Foster explores the pervasive turn, from the mid-1940s to the early 1960s, to the brut and the brutalist, the animal and the creaturely, as these are manifest in the early work of five artists. In the third lecture, “Georges Bataille and His Caves,” held on April 22, 2018, Foster asks what Bataille saw in the “enigma” of the cave paintings of Lascaux.

51mins

1 May 2018

Rank #20