Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Art Eyewitness Looks at the Art Scene in 2020


Reflections on the Art Scene during 2020

By Ed Voves

World War II lasted five years and one day. For almost the entire span of that terrible time, the collection of the National Gallery in London was stored in a disused slate mine, located at Manod in Wales. When the worst of the German air bombardment of London had abated in 1942, one picture per month was brought from Manod and placed on display in the museum. 

The first "Picture of the Month" at the National Gallery was Titian's Noli Me Tangere, painted around 1514. 

The First Picture of the Month at the National Gallery, London, 1942

Titian, Noli Me Tangere, ca. 1514 

The title of Titian's masterpiece comes from the command of Jesus to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection. "Do not touch me," Jesus said and these words were fortunately reflected by the wartime turn of events. No shrapnel fragments from a German bomb "touched" Titian's masterpiece nor any of the other works of art shown to culture-starved Londoners during the war years.

This past year has seen challenges which recall the empty exhibition spaces at the National Gallery during World War II - and the tragic toll of human suffering, as well. The Covid-19 Pandemic has touched the lives of the entire human family and has affected every sphere of life, including the ways in which we appreciate art during times of crisis. 

Normally, the Art Eyewitness "year in review" addresses positive trends and hopeful developments in the visual arts. Also shared are parting thoughts on the great exhibitions and new books which we have been fortunate to review. There will certainly be a few such comments in this essay. Since the Covid-19 museum closings began in March 2020, however, the opportunities to behold great works of art in person have been extremely limited. That has been - and continues to be - the big art story of 2020.

To introduce my reflections on the art scene during 2020, I am going to take a page from the National Gallery in London and present a "picture of the year." This work of art will, I hope, testify to the experience of art during the past year.

My choice wasn't difficult to make. Thomas Eakin's The Agnew Clinic, painted in 1889, is a work devoted to health care, in keeping with our thoughts on Covid-19. Created on an epic scale, the painting honors the noted surgeon at Philadelphia's Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. D. Hayes Agnew.

Thomas Eakins, The Agnew Clinic, 1889

Eakins depicted Dr. Agnew lecturing to medical students as he and his team performed a mastectomy on a young woman patient. In a master stroke, Eakins complemented the heroic figure of Dr. Agnew and the vulnerable body of the patient by placing the operating room nurse, Mary V. Clymer, in a prominent position, anchoring the right-hand side of the painting.

Mary V. Clymer (1861-1942)
Photo from the Barbara Bates Center for the Study of Nursing, 
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

Mary Clymer was a dedicated and self-sacrificing member of the American medical profession. Born in 1861 to a working-class family, she enrolled in the recently-established nursing school at the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated in 1889, the year that Eakins painted The Agnew Clinic, receiving the Nightingale Medal for her outstanding achievements.

Miss Clymer's student notes have been preserved and one of the entries underscores the look of caring and empathy which Eakins captured with such remarkable feeling and insight.

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2020)
 Detail of Thomas Eakin's The Agnew Clinic, showing Mary Clymer

“We must always be dignified & grave," Clymer noted on the mode of conduct expected of a nurse during a surgery, "never forgetting that all we are trying to do is for the good of the patient.” 

Dignity and concern for the good of the patient - these attributes are etched on Mary Clymer's face. The value of great art works like The Agnew Clinic is to remind us of the dedication of people in the caring professions, past and present. 

By extension, we need to acknowledge the inspiring efforts of museum workers, curators, digital support staff and public relations specialists. These gifted professionals launched an amazing array of "virtual" programs and educational initiatives to provide access to their collections and special exhibitions when the museum doors were closed by the Covid-19 quarantine. 

All the great art museums responded to the Covid crisis by opening the digital portals to their institutions. But this remarkable 360 degree "tour" of the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will serve as an exemplar for the outstanding work by America's art museums, coast-to-coast, during 2020.

The Met 360° Project. The Temple of Dendur 
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The staff of the Metropolitan Museum of Art also needs a special measure of praise, or perhaps commiseration is more appropriate, on the way that they somehow managed to stage Met 150, the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Met's founding despite Covid-19.  Although the festivities were reduced in scale and many exhibitions were postponed or cancelled, the Met was able to finally show it's principal exhibition, Making the Met, when the museum reopened in the late summer. 

Invitation to the Press Preview of Making the Met, 1870-2020

Sadly, I am going to miss Making the Met, because of the continued difficulty of travelling to New York. However, I was able to make it to the Smithsonian American Art Museum for the spectacular Alexander von Humboldt and the United States exhibition. Originally scheduled to begin on March 14, 2020, the Humboldt exhibit opened for a short run, September 18 - November 22, 2020.

As I wrote in a recent post, the Humboldt exhibit was splendid. The life of Alexander von Humboldt, the great German scientist of the early 1800's, was highlighted by art and artifacts from his epic journeys in Latin America and by art works inspired by his legacy. 

Ed Voves, Photo (2020)
 Gallery view of Humboldt and the United States, showing the Skeleton of the Mastodon, excavated by Charles Willson Peale

The center piece of the Humboldt exhibition was the magnificent skeleton of a prehistoric mastodon, "exhumed" in 1801 in Newburgh, New York. Later purchased for a German collection, the mighty mastodon made its first return to its native shores during the Humboldt exhibition.

To see the mastodon and the other treasures of the Humboldt exhibit was something of a "peak" experience for me. But more than a tinge of sadness colored my visit to the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) for this "once-in-a-lifetime" exhibition. The SAAM staff had prepared a wonderful range of interactive videos and activities aimed at school age children. When I visited, however, there were no kids, no school groups. I suspect that few young people managed to see this exhibit before its run was cut-short, six weeks early in late November.

One of the pictures on view in Humboldt and the United States was George Catlin's painting of Native American hunters, clad in wolf skins, sneaking up on a herd of grazing buffalo. This is among the earliest pictures which I can remember, from the Indians and the Old West volume of The Golden Library of Knowledge, which I received as a Christmas gift. It was very moving to see the original.

Ed Voves, Photo (2020) 
George Catlin's Buffalo Hunt under the Wolf-skin Mask, 1831-1833

Childhood reading, museum visits, school trips, etc., leave their mark on young lives, generally in a very positive manner. The Covid-19 lockdown is depriving children all over the world of such formative experiences. Whatever the physical dangers which Covid-19 poses to children, the emotional and intellectual damage is only beginning to be felt. The full extent will not be known for many years and it is almost certain to be devastating.

The outreach efforts of museums will help deal with some of the baneful social consequences of Covid-19. But the shift from museums as public institutions to "virtual" platforms raises some justified fears. An example from the past when privatization prevailed over a more expansive model of society is instructive. 

During 2020, I had occasion to consult an old favorite from my book shelves, Mark Girouard's Life in the English Country House. I started to re-read this classic book from 1978 and as I did so, the theme seemed to shift from a splendid commentary on architecture to an investigation of social trends. Somehow, I hadn't noticed that before.

With perceptive insight, Girouard traced the change in function of the great English rural estates. During the Middle Ages and Elizabethan times, the country estates were crowded with a host of retainers, servants, guests and travelers seeking shelter. The layout of rooms reflected the social function of these palatial "houses."

Unknown artist, Portrait of Sir Henry Unton, ca. 1596

A key illustration in the book, the Portrait of Sir Henry Unton, painted in 1596, documents the traditional country house lifestyle. Unton, a prominent Elizabethan diplomat, is depicted hosting a theatrical masque at his estate, Wadley House, in one of the episodes of this unusual work of art. Providing lavish entertainments such as this was an expected feature of country house etiquette. 

The English country houses were centers of culture, as well as ostentatious living. Acting companies, including Shakespeare's, toured the country houses. Libraries and "cabinets of curiosities" became permanent features of these impressive dwellings.

As the centuries passed, the country houses with their great halls open to multitudes changed due to an ever-growing demand for privacy. The tradition of "old English hospitality" for the many faded away. By the mid-1700's, it was gone, though the rise of public institutions like the British Museum, founded in 1759, took on the role of providing for learning and enjoyment open to all.

Admission ticket to the British Museum, 1790 
©Trustees of the British Museum

Museums in the United States served in like fashion and continue to do so. As society changes, museums have successfully served as forums for a democratic, pluralistic society. As in the medieval-era country houses, people of diverse backgrounds come together in the shared space of the museum to embrace life.

In last year's Art Scene reflections, I was very upbeat on the role of museums in society. A few short months later, the situation changed dramatically - and for the worse. Covid-19 has dealt a  devastating blow to art museums as the bastions for an open society. 

It is very difficult to find positive trends or developments- at least in the short term - upon which to base hope for museums, when the doors of these public institutions are locked. 

A survey of 750 museum directors, conducted by the American Alliance of Museums in June 2020, makes for some very sobering reading. The key points are excerpted below:

1. One-third (33%) of museum directors surveyed confirmed there was a  “significant risk” of closing permanently by next fall, or they “didn’t know” if they would survive.

2. The vast majority (87%) of museums have only 12 months or less of financial operating reserves remaining, with 56% having less than six months left to cover operations.

3. During the pandemic, 75% of museums stepped into their pivotal role as educators providing virtual educational programs, experiences, and curricula to students, parents, and teachers.

4, Two-thirds (64%) of directors predicted cuts in education, programming, or other public services due to significant budget cuts.

In the place of thriving forums of learning and public discourse, we currently have empty galleries. Like the paintings of the National Gallery, stacked in the mine shafts at Manod, the works of art are safe - but beyond our reach when we so desperately need inspiration.

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2020) Gallery view of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, late 19th century American painting and decorative art

What is to be done under the present, discouraging, circumstances?

At this point, it is important to reject desperation or fatalism. The worst-case scenarios of the museum survey have not happened - yet. 

Instead of despair, I think we should cultivate what John Keats called “Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” 

If we cultivate "Negative Capability," we can still embrace the creative life, the joy of art and the search for meaning. Our minds and hearts can still function despite the "uncertainties, mysteries, doubts" which afflict us.

If your church is closed because of Covid-19, practice mindfulness meditation. If libraries are closed, read the old favorites on your bedside bookshelf - I was amazed at the new insights I derived from reading Life in the English Country House after so many years.

If the art museums remain closed - some perhaps forever - then it's time we started creating our own art. Search inward and then reach for a sketchbook or lump of sculpting clay. I've begun taking photos of nearby trees and gardens as a form of creative expression. I'm still far from matching the brilliance of my wife, Anne's, photography, which has lifted Art Eyewitness to new levels of visual enchantment. But I've lit a few "single candles" and the glow from them really is better than darkness.

Ed Voves, (Photo 2020) Seasonal Images of Philadelphia, PA

In closing, we at Art Eyewitness wish you a Happy New Year! Yes, the art scene is rather bleak right now but the "candles" we will light in 2021 will brighten the world around us like the dawn!

Text: Copyright of Ed Voves. Original Photos: Anne Lloyd and Ed Voves. All rights reserved 

The excerpt of the June 2020 museum survey by the the American Alliance of Museums is quoted from:
Images of The Agnew Clinic by Thomas Eakins, courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Additional images, courtesy of the National Gallery, London, the National Portrait Gallery, London, the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press.

Introductory Image:
Detail of Thomas Eakin's The Agnew Clinic, showing Mary Clymer. Image details below.

Unknown Photographer. First Picture of the Month, Titian Noli Me Tangere (NG270), in the West Vestibule of the National Gallery, London, March 12-21 April 21,1942. Archive reference number - NG30/1942/43

Titian (Italian, 1488/90-1576) Noli Me Tangere, ca. 1514 Oil on canvas: 110.5 x 91.9 cm. National Gallery, London. Bequeathed by Samuel Rogers, 1856. NG270

Thomas Eakins (American, 1844–1916) Portrait of Dr. Hayes Agnew (The Agnew Clinic), 1889. Oil on canvas: On loan from the University of Pennsylvania Art Collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Mary V. Clymer (1861-1942) Photo from the Barbara Bates Center for the Study of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2020) Detail of Thomas Eakin's The Agnew Clinic, 1889, showing Mary Clymer.

The Met 360° Project. The Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. ©The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art Press Preview invitation for the Making the Met, 1870-2020 exhibition. Copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Ed Voves, Photo (2020) Gallery view of the Humboldt and the United States exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, showing the Skeleton of the Mastodon, excavated by Charles Willson Peale in 1801.

Ed Voves, Photo (2020) George Catlin's Buffalo Hunt under the Wolf-skin Mask, 1831-1833. Oil on canvas: 24 x 29 in. (60.9 x 73.7 cm). Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.

Cover art for Mark Girouard's Life in the English Country House (Yale University Press, 1978) © Yale University Press

Unknown artist, Portrait of Sir Henry Unton, ca. 1596. Oil on panel: 29 1/8 in. x 64 1/4 in. (740 mm x 1632 mm) National Portrait Gallery, London, purchased in 1884. #NPG 710.

Admission ticket to the British Museum, 1790 ©Trustees of the British Museum

Anne Lloyd, Photo (2020) Gallery view of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gallery 211, late 19th century American art

Ed Voves, (Photo 2020) Seasonal Images of Philadelphia, PA

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Art Eyewitness Book Review: John Nash by Andy Friend


John Nash: the Landscape of Love and Solace

By Andy Friend

Thames & Hudson/$40/352 pages

Reviewed by Ed Voves

In one of the most memorable tales of Greek mythology, Narcissus looked into a pond and glimpsed his own image. He swiftly became infatuated, remaining oblivious to the love of the nymph, Echo.

Narcissism is a danger which can befall any human being, but is especially dangerous to artists. After all, they seemingly have god-like powers of creation and it takes a strong personal character not to succumb to debilitating self-regard.

In his new biography of the British artist, John Nash, Andy Friend charts the working life of a creative spirit who steadfastly avoided the fate of Narcissus. Nash frequently depicted ponds or woodland streams in his paintings, but when he looked into reflections in these watery mirrors, it was Nature itself which he beheld. 

Unknown Photographer. John Nash, 1918

During his long life, John Nash, 1893-1977, frequently needed to call upon his reserves of fortitude. From childhood on, he encountered "Colonel Depression" and struggled against a life-long undertow of suffering and loss. Fortunately for Nash, there was a nymph in his life, whom he did not ignore. This was his wife, Christine, and Nash's eventual success as an artist was in no small part due to her. 

This compelling biography recounts the unconventional, open-marriage which sustained Nash and his wife through two world wars, long stretches of near-poverty and the terrible calamity of the death of their only child in an automobile accident in 1935. 

Nash's life and work were also much affected by his relationship with his artist brother,  Paul. It would be misleading to emphasize sibling-rivalry as a major factor. Paul Nash's enthusiasm and support were crucial in John's decision to become an artist. Yet, as Andy Friend  relates, their careers came to a point where their paths diverged. Paul went on to become one of the leading proponents of Modernism in British art. In 1933, when he founded Unit 1, an association of avante garde artists, Paul excluded his brother from its membership.

The defining event which initially linked the Nash brothers as artists was World War I. Both served in the British Army on the Western Front. Both were commissioned as war artists during the conflict - John at the very end - and both responded to the "Great War" in ways which shaped much of their outlook on life after the shooting stopped.

Paul received an officer's commission and, after he became an official war artist, had a staff car placed at his disposal in order to tour the British sector. He witnessed the appalling carnage at close hand and was frequently exposed to German artillery fire.

John's experience was very different. He served as an enlisted man, spending long stretches hauling supplies, engaged in road construction and monotonous - and dangerous - tours of sentry duty and trench patrols. 

John Nash, Oppy Wood, 1917. Evening, 1918

As a private soldier, John was forbidden to bring any artist's supplies into the front line. Apart from some hurried sketches, he had to rely on his memory to record the impact of war.The long, tedious hours spent in the front line at Oppy Wood, near Arras, would be summoned to life in one of his major paintings, completed after the Armistice of 1918.

On December 30,1917, John's company was hurled into the Battle of Cambrai. A few weeks earlier, the first massed use of tanks had ripped-open a gap in the German lines. But the British high command bungled this great opportunity by failing to bring in reinforcements. The Germans, clad in white winter uniforms, launched a devastating assault. John's unit, conspicuous targets in their olive drab battle gear, counter-attacked across the snow-covered No-Man's Land. John was one of the few survivors.

This atrocious debacle might have broken a lesser man but John Nash turned the experience into a powerful testament to the human spirit amid the folly of war. Andy Friend, who curated a recent exhibition of Nash's work in Britain, brilliantly analyzes the preparatory drawings which Nash made from memory, using them to compose his masterful painting of men in battle.

John Nash, The Counter-Attack; Study for "Over the Top", 1918

Nash's Over the Top is literally, as well as emotionally, a moving picture. By his brilliant use of cropping and the subtle variations in the pose of his protagonists, Nash propelled the action from the trench, toward the unseen German lines. There most of the company would fall, killed, wounded or pinned-down by machine gun fire. 

   John Nash, "Over the Top"  1st Artists' Rifles at Marcoing,
 30th December 1917, 1918

So vivid and believable is Nash's depiction of advancing troops that we half-expect to see combat medics follow them on to the picture plane, in order to carry the wounded and dying back to a field hospital. And we must never forget that Nash is recording, from memory, the sacrifice and death of comrades from his own unit, the 1st Artists' Rifles. These men are not just faceless "poor bloody infantry" plodding to their doom over a landscape of blood-tinged snow. Nash knew each of them by face.

Commenting with great insight on Nash's experience of war, Friend writes:

John's oeuvre of war art was a major personal achievement of recall and creativity. He had dealt with bitter experiences, extended his range as an artist and produced a unique contribution to the national collection, instantly appreciated for its authenticity by those who had been there.

Friend, however, goes on to note that, following Over the Top and Oppy Wood, Nash would seldom "ever make human beings central to an oil painting." I was moved to compare Nash's postwar landscapes with those of his American contemporary, Charles Burchfield (1893-1967). A World War I veteran, Burchfield painted forests and fields, deserted by humanity, haunted by some malign spirit. Eventually, Burchfield achieved a level of spiritual transcendence in his paintings. 

Were similar forces at work in Nash's art? 

Nash's landscapes in the years just after World War I do strike me as having similar death-tinged nuances. In 1923, he painted The Moat, Grange Farm, Kimble, which evokes the setting of Oppy Wood. Instead of a trench there is a water-filled moat surrounded by leafless, misshapen trees. There is no evidence of human life and, strangely, the reflections of the trees in the water seldom conform to the shape of overhanging tree trunks and branches. These are not mirror images, but rather apparitions.

John Nash worked through and transcended his feelings of loss in order to find  solace in the landscape of England. We can readily see this emotional transformation in a later work, The Lake, Little Horkesley Hall, painted around 1958.

                  John Nash, The Lake, Little Horkesley Hall, c.1958                 
©Royal Academy of Arts, photographer: J. Hammond

In this beautiful, lyrical, work, the reflections match "spot-on." Instead of the picture being devoid of people, Nash places us there in the role of direct, if unseen, observers.  And what is there to observe? It is nature regenerating itself, quietly preparing to burst into bloom when spring comes again.

Nash spent much of his life "regenerating" from World War I and, it should be noted, from a continuing cycle of the deaths of close friends and loved-ones. These losses included not just his little son, William, but the artist, Eric Ravilous, the subject of an earlier biography by Friend. His brother, Paul, who had battled asthma for much of his life, died soon after the Second World War.

Nash's life is a salutary example of the beneficial effects of work. Constant effort, dedicated attention to craft, insight infused with light from the act of daily looking and living with nature - this was the great drama of John Nash's life. Paul Nash was correct, whatever his motivation, for not enlisting him in Unit 1.

Unknown Photographer, John Nash, ca. 1930

Nash had to make a living, especially as his landscapes often went unsold. He earned his bread by mastering woodcut engraving and lithography. His illustrations for books and magazines rank among the best examples of these art forms, which were such a staple of commercial art during the early decades of the twentieth century that it is easy to overlook their brilliance.

Among the many merits of John Nash: the Landscape of Love and Solace are the quality of design and careful production values which are very evident when perusing its pages. Rather than being a large-format museum catalog, the book has an "old-fashioned" feel to it, like a quality novel from the 1930's. 

Books of the 30's and 40's certainly did not have so many colored pictures - brilliantly integrated with the text - as the present volume does. But the woodcuts featured in the book grab our attention and hold our interest just as they did in times past, when the number of illustrations was much fewer and far between than it is now.

The same exceptional merit is due to the text and the author who wrote it. Andy Friend has summoned John Nash back to life and introduced us to him. Nash had a great capacity for making friendships, all the more poignant for the many early losses through war and disease. Nash never stopped embracing  new friends even in old age. 

After finishing John Nash: the Landscape of Love and Solace , I was very pleased to have made the acquaintance of its protagonist and to have enjoyed his company in this deeply satisfying book. 

John Northcote Nash might well have spent his life in Narcissus-like, self-absorption. Instead, he reached out to his fellow human beings and focused on the mirror of Nature, which reflected back the quiet splendors of the world around him.


Text: Copyright of Ed Voves, all rights reserved                                                                                Cover and image of page spread, courtesy of Thames and Hudson. 

Introductory image: cover art of John Nash: the Landscape of Love and Solace

Unknown Photographer. John Nash, 1918. Vintage snapshot print: 3 1/4 in. x 2 1/8 in. (81 mm x 55 mm). Given by Ronald George Blythe, 2004. National Portrait Gallery, London, Photographs Collection. NPG x127171  ©National Portrait Gallery                                   

John Nash (British, 1893-1977) Oppy Wood, 1917. Evening, 1918. Oil on canvas: 1828 mm x 2133 mm. Imperial War Museum, UK. IWM ART 2243.

John Nash (British, 1893-1977) The Counter-Attack; Study for "Over the Top", 1918. Watercolour, pencil and ink on paper: 252 mm x 341 mm. Imperial War Museum, UK. IWM ART 3908

John Nash (British, 1893-1977) "Over the Top" 1st Artists' Rifles at Marcoing, 30th December 1917, 1918. Oil on canvas: 798 mm x 1080 mm. Imperial War Museum, UK. IWM ART 1656.

John Nash, RA (British, 1893-1977) The Lake, Little Horkesley Hall, c.1958. Oil on canvas: 606 mm x 760 mm. Royal Academy of Arts 03/1007 ©Royal Academy of Arts, London; photographer: J. Hammond

Unknown Photographer. John Nash, ca. 1930. Cream-toned bromide print:12 1/4 in. x 14 3/8 in. (311 mm x 364 mm). Given by Ronald George Blythe, 2004  National Portrait Gallery, London, Photographs Collection. NPG x127169  ©National Portrait Gallery

Page spread from John Nash: the Landscape of Love and Solace by Andy Friend. Courtesy of Thames and Hudson.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Art Eyewitness Book Review: Ravenna by Judith Herrin


             Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe

By Judith Herrin    

Princeton University Press/$29.95/537 pages

Reviewed by Ed Voves 

In most books on Western art, the mosaics of Ravenna, the last capital of the Western Roman Empire, are accorded a few paragraphs of commentary. Then, the narrative bids farewell to the glories of ancient art and the journey to the Middle Ages begins.

A recently published book about Ravenna presses the pause button of the march of art history. The author, Judith Herrin, demonstrates that the impact of Ravenna was much broader and more influential, in politics and in art, than is generally realized.

In this major reassessment, Herrin combines an overarching view of events and historical trends. She also focuses on the social, religious and artistic history of Ravenna. There are so many points of cultural transition, shared with the embryonic nations of the West, that Ravenna certainly merits the title of "crucible of Europe."

Ravenna's "center stage" role in history began as Germanic tribes crossed the frontiers of the Roman Empire, beginning with the Goths in 376. 

In 402, the Emperor Honorius evacuated his court from Milan (Rome itself was no longer the capital of the Western half of the Empire) and took refuge in the more defensible city of Ravenna. Until that point, Ravenna had been a navy base where a branch of the Po River flows into the Adriatic Sea. Ravenna and its neighboring port facility, Classis, were surrounded by dense marshes which the cavalry of the Gothic tribes could not easily cross. 

Of necessity, Herrin presents a considerable amount of political history which took place beyond Ravenna's protective marshes. Inside the city limits, many of the norms of urban life under the Roman Empire continued - chariot races, public baths, regular supplies of grain from Sicily or North Africa. When Rome was sacked in 410 by Gothic troops who had not been paid, the shock was "seismic" but life went on. Those who could, fled to Ravenna.

Two of the political "survivors" who flourished in Ravenna serve as major protagonists in Herrin's often gripping narrative. These larger-than-life figures are Empress Galla Placidia (ca.388-450) and the savy Gothic leader, King Theodoric (454–526). Their lives, fraught with peril and adventure, cannot be more than summarized here. They did share one significant life experience. Galla Placidia and Theodoric both spent a considerable part of their youth as hostages.

Gold Solidus of Galla Placidia, minted at Ravenna, 426-430

Galla Placidia was half-sister to the feckless Emperor Honorious. She was living in Rome rather than Ravenna, when the Gothic mercenaries stormed the city in 410. Galla Placidia was carted-off with other prisoners when these Visigoths departed. She was very well-treated and eventually married the Gothic king, Athaulf. This union might have led to a Roman-Goth alliance but Athaulf was murdered by one of his own men. Galla Placidia was eventually released, married again and for a decade was the regent of the Western Empire for her young son, Valentinian III. 

Theodoric, born in 454, spent his younger years as a hostage in Constantinople, capital of the Eastern roman Empire. He spent his time wisely, learning about the ways of the Romans. 

Gold Triple Solidus of Theodoric, 493-526

By a series of complex maneuvers, diplomatic and military, Theodoric seized power in Italy, with his capital in Ravenna. He ruled, nominally on behalf of the Eastern Empire. The real power was his and Theodoric understood that raw military strength was most effective when tempered by patronage of the Christian Church and its art. 

In cultivating the Church, Theodoric followed in the footsteps of Galla Placidia.

When Galla Placida took up residence in Ravenna, following her release by the Visigoths, she had few political "cards" to play. But constructing  impressive churches was one way of asserting power. This she did, building the great church in Ravenna dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and, even more famously, the edifice known as the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. As Herrin astutely notes, Galla Placida's Mausoleum was never intended as a burial chamber but was part of another church which no longer survives.

The Dome of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, 425-450
Photo: © Kieran Dodds

Galla Placidia's "Mausoleum" is an manifestation of political and religious, indeed universal, order. The astonishing mosaics of its interior show a starry sky, an image of Jesus - one of the earliest surviving depictions of Christ, a scene showing the martyrdom of St. Lawrence and decorative motifs of flora and fauna recalling the Garden of Eden. These mosaics are accompanied by verses, based on quotes from the Bible, carved on the arches of the building. 

Galla Placidia brought heaven to earth with this incredible imagery. She also reasserted the claim of the rulers of Rome to a definitive religious role. Beginning with Constantine, the first Christian emperor, Rome's supreme leader was declared to be isapóstolos - "equal of the Apostles." Galla Placidia's magnificent buildings in Ravenna proclaimed that an empress could be isapóstolos, too.

There is no record of King Theodoric desiring to be recognized as "equal to the Apostles." He did aim at political parity with the Eastern Roman emperor and very nearly achieved this goal. 

Detail of mosaics on the north wall of the nave of St. Apollinare Nuovo, showing the presentation of gifts by the Three Magi. 
(This image does not appear in the book.)

A capable general and skillful diplomat, Theodoric rivaled Galla Placdia as a builder of churches in Ravenna. His palace church, St. Apollinare Nuovo, with towering marble pillars and three tiers of mosaics, ranks as one of the great architectural achievements of the period, equal in merit to contemporary structures in Constantinople sponsored by the Eastern emperors.

Theodoric faced a problem which Galla Placidia never had to deal with. Although Theodoric was a Christian, he was a member of a group branded as heretics by the Christian religious establishment. He wasn't alone. Almost all of the German tribes had embraced Arianism, a form of Christianity which emphasized the cosmic power of God the Father, with the divinity of Jesus - the Son of God - being of a much lesser degree. The established Christian view, Orthodoxy, held that Jesus was equally human and equally divine. 

The difference in theology was profound and affected the composition of the art works on the walls of Ravenna's churches. Herrin's perceptive analysis, ably complemented by the superb photos of Kieran Dodds, helps the reader grasp the contending views of Jesus, God and Man.

Ravenna's baptisteries are a case in point. These buildings, still standing, were constructed for new Christians to profess their faith. Recalling the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan, one shows a mosaic of Jesus as a mature adult, the other as a beardless youth. The first is the Orthodox Baptistery, the second - built by Theodoric - is the Arian Baptistery.

These rival interpretations of how Jesus' physical attributes reflected his divine status is a fascinating subject. Early Christian art emphasized the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, rather than Jesus on the Cross. The crucified Christ was still a source of grief and mortification despite the passing of centuries. 

Detail of the young Christ from the apse of San Vitale, 526-540
Photo: © Kieran Dodds

When we look at the magnificent depiction of a young, fresh-faced Jesus on a spectacular mosaic in the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, we are seeing the deep roots of the emphasis on his humanity. Yet, San Vitale is an Orthodox Church, built after Theodoric. Not far from this image in San Vitale, is another depiction of Jesus, older and more venerable - and bearded. Even the Christian Church establishment felt the need to try and satisfy both parties.

So too did Theodoric. He was a notably tolerant ruler, accommodating both the Orthodox population of Italy and his own Arian followers. .

Theodoric's amazing political fortune never turned as long as he lived. But all his hopes for a Gothic dynasty of a united Italy, ruled from Ravenna, swiftly withered after he died in 526. The powerful and ambitious Emperor Justinian made his move to reconquer Italy, ultimately achieved after a bitterly fought campaign. Italy was left in ruins and the Byzantine treasury drained of funds needed to pay Justinian's troops. 

No sooner were the Goths defeated than a new wave of German invaders, the Lombards, overran the north of Italy. Ravenna was menaced by an unceasing round of raids and sieges, though its marshland defenses generally held. 

Within the city walls, a similar scenario occurred. Arianism was refuted, to be succeeded by endless, hair-splitting interpretations of Jesus' human/divine nature. 

The latter chapters of Ravenna, Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe make for some fairly discouraging reading. But Herrin redeems the political and religious folly of that era by her insightful examination of Ravenna's social history. While "things fell apart" and "the center did not hold," considerable achievements in medicine, scientific education and linguistics occurred in the beleaguered city.

Ravenna endured. Charlemagne eventually crushed the Lombards and was crowned as Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day, 800. As he laid the foundations of his expansive realm, he had only to look to Ravenna as a treasure house of art and architecture and a ready source of political ideology and scientific ideas.

The Domkirche (Palace Chapel) of Charlemagne at Aachen, 794-813

Charlemagne visited Ravenna three times. He directly modeled the Domkirche,  or palace chapel, which he built in his capital city of Aachen on the plan of the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna. 

Herrin also speculates - with abundant evidence - that Charlemagne felt a special affinity for King Theodoric: 

Visiting the king's mausoleum ... Charles perhaps considered how to be buried in a comparably impressive fashion. Theodoric's combination of Germanic aggression and Byzantine statecraft created a startlingly relevant model for the Frankish king so recently raised to imperial status.

Ravenna's legacy came at a high price - for Ravenna. In one of the most provocative conclusions of her very fine book, Herrin judges that the efforts to safeguard the knowledge of the ancient world ultimately sapped the strength and independence of Ravenna's people. 

So much effort was expended in protecting the city from invaders beyond the marshes that little energy and resources remained to drain the harbor at Classis. Year-after-year, erosion filled the port with silt, cutting Ravenna's access to the sea. Likewise, the emphasis on preserving traditional knowledge prevented the growth of a sense of trial-by-error initiative - and innovation. 

By the time of Charlemagne's visits, Ravenna was fading in economic power. Venice, founded in 697 by refugees from Lombard raids, was already sending merchant vessels and protecting warships down the Adriatic Sea, en route to the Mediterranean sea lanes. The ships of Venice, proudly flying the lion banner of St. Mark, sailed past land-locked Ravenna, without bothering to stop. 


Text: Copyright of Ed Voves, all rights reserved                                                                                           

Introductory Image: Book cover image of Ravenna, Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe, Courtesy of Princeton University Press

Gold Solidus of Galla Placidia, minted at Ravenna, 426-430. Gold: 4.47g, 21mm. Dumbarton Oaks Museum. # BZC.1948.17.932

Gold Triple Solidus of Theodoric, 493-526.

The Dome of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, 425-450. Courtesy of Princeton University Press. Photo: © Kieran Dodds

Detail of mosaics on the north wall of the nave of St. Apollinare Nuovo, showing the presentation of gifts by the Three Magi. Courtesy of the University of Michigans' Art Images for College Teaching. 

Detail of the young Christ from apse of San Vitale, 526-540. Courtesy of Princeton University Press Photo: © Kieran Dodds 

The Domkirche (High Cathedral) of Charlemagne at Aachen, 794-813. Photo courtesy of J. Heribert Pohl.,_Impressionen_aus_dem_karolingischem_Oktogon_---_High_Cathedral_of_Aachen,_Impressions_from_the_Carolingian_octagon_(14328301875).jpg

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Art Eyewitness Review: Alexander von Humboldt and the United States


                                      Alexander von Humboldt and the United States:                                Art, Nature, and Culture 

Smithsonian American Art Museum 

September 18 - November 22, 2020

By Ed Voves

Alexander von Humboldt was one of the greatest German scientists of all time. During his lifetime, 1769 to 1859, Humboldt was a world-renowned figure. Surprisingly, he is under-appreciated today, especially in the English-speaking world. 

A recent exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum attempted to rectify this situation but was bedeviled by the Covid-19 quarantine. Originally scheduled to begin on March 14, 2020, the exhibit finally opened in mid-September. Then, on November 22nd, six weeks before its slated January 3, 2021 end date, it closed and the trove of exhibit treasures were returned to their home museums. 

I was one of the fortunate art lovers able to see Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture. Instead of encouraging you to visit this exhibit, I find myself - sadly - writing about it in the past tense. However, Alexander von Humboldt's achievements are part of the living legacy of humankind and are not easily dismissed. 

Ed Voves, Photo (2020) 
Gallery view of the Humboldt and the United States exhibition 

In some ways the obstacles which were encountered in presenting this wonderful exhibition recall the many challenges faced by Humboldt during his epic expedition to South America, 1799-1804. Likewise, the shortened length of the exhibition seems ironically in keeping with the mere six weeks which Humboldt was able to spend in the United States. Although Humboldt never explored the frontier regions of the U.S., he made a huge impact during his brief stay in the young American republic.

Humboldt's dates are important to consider in understanding his influence upon the U.S. and indeed the entire world. The year he was born, 1769, witnessed the true beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when James Watt registered for a patent for his design of a steam engine with a separate condenser. Ninety years later, as the world mourned Humboldt, Charles Darwin's Origin of Species was published. 

Throughout the decades of revolutionary changes which occurred between 1769 to 1859, Humboldt played a highly significant role. 

Every branch of the sciences during this pivotal era were transformed by discoveries or educated theories made by Humboldt. From his exacting measurement of the temperature of ocean currents to the study of volcanic action to observations on the atmospheric factors causing tropical storms, Humboldt made important contributions.

Baron Alexander von Humboldt was educated in the precepts of the 18th century Enlightenment. A gifted student of chemistry, he was also interested in the direct study of the natural world. Humboldt's brilliance was quickly recognized. The government of Prussia, the leading state of Germany, appointed the young scholar as inspector of mines in one of its territories and also sent him on diplomatic missions.

Charles Willson Peale, Alexander von Humboldt, 1804

Humboldt yearned for wider horizons and, in the company of a French naturalist, Aimé Bonpland, set off late in 1799 to explore the Spanish colonies in the Americas. Beginning with a perilous canoe journey up the Orinoco River into the Amazon rain forest, Humboldt constantly put his life at risk. In the process, Humboldt amassed a mountain-sized haul of specimens of flora and fauna and volumes of meticulously compiled notes. 

Symbolically, the climax to Humboldt's quest was an amazing ascent of Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador, then believed to be the highest mountain in the world. Without proper mountaineering equipment - much less oxygen cylinders - Humboldt and Bonpland scaled Chimborazo to the dizzying height of 18,893 feet, establishing the world's record for mountain climbing for many years thereafter. 

The Smithsonian exhibition briefly surveyed Humboldt's adventures in Latin America, displaying the hand-colored chart he made after descending from Chimborazo. The chart, later made into a print, showed the correlation of plant species with climate zones, rising from the floor of the jungle to snow-capped mountain peaks. 

Alexander von Humboldt & Aimé Bonpland,
 Géographie des plantes ÉquinoxialesTableau physique
 des Andes et Pays voisins1805

With this amazing graphic, Humboldt illustrated his greatest discovery. All of nature was united in a living, organic force he called Naturgemälde.

As the title of the Smithsonian exhibition attests, the primary topic was Humboldt's short visit to the United States and its long train of consequences. The news of his exploits in Latin America reached the U.S. and members of the nation's scientific establishment, led by President Thomas Jefferson, were eager to meet him.

Rembrandt Peale, Thomas Jefferson, 1805

Quite apart from Jefferson's insatiable appetite for scientific information, Humboldt's expedition validated plans already underway for similar American initiatives. In 1803, as Humboldt and Bonpland completed the last of their studies in Mexico, Captain Meriweather Lewis and Lt. William Clark were setting forth to explore the vast Western territory recently purchased from France by Jefferson. Humboldt's audacity - and real scientific achievements - created a template for Americans to utilize in their bold plans to push westward to the Pacific.

Humboldt was hailed as a hero when he reached the United States in May 1804. He was invited by Jefferson to come to the White House, but another highlight of his sojourn in the U.S. was his visit to Peale's Museum in Philadelphia. Charles Willson Peale, the leading American artist of this era, was also a science enthusiast. In 1801, Peale led the effort to "exhume" the bones of a prehistoric mastodon which had been discovered near Newburgh, New York. He then transported the complete skeleton of the mighty beast to Philadelphia where it was reassembled and placed on display. 

Ed Voves, Photo (2020)
 Gallery view of Humboldt and the United States, showing the Skeleton of the Mastodon, excavated by Charles Willson Peale

In an outstanding curatorial "coup," the mastodon skeleton was brought to the Smithsonian from a museum in Germany, where it eventually went after Peale's death. 

What a fantastic experience to be able to study the mastodon, back on its native soil. It was close to stepping back in time to the moment of its discovery. To see the very mastodon skeleton, excavated by Peale and admired by Humboldt, was a moment to treasure.

The "exhumation" of the Mastodon, coming at the same time as Humboldt's achievements, marked the triumph of scientific methodology. It was not just a lucky discovery of rare fossils. Peale later painted a detailed view of the event, complete with water wheel and pulley system, used in dredging the muck from the excavation site. 

Charles Willson Peale, Exhumation of the Mastodon, ca. 1806–08

Peale placed himself in a commanding position in the picture, as might be expected from a self-promoting showman, as he indeed was. But without Peale's ambition and risk-taking, American art and science would not have been ready to take advantage of Humboldt's lead.

Humboldt always expected to return to the U.S. for an expedition similar to his exploits in South America and Mexico. This objective was never realized due to the long years of examining and cataloging the specimens from his journey with Bonpland. Also, the king of Prussia loaded Humboldt with honors, but also piled-on endless court duties which consumed his time and energy.

It has also to be considered that Humboldt did not return to America because he was deeply troubled by the simmering crisis over slavery in the U.S. Humboldt had traveled to Cuba with Bonpland and was horrified by the treatment of African slaves on the Spanish-held island. Also, he saw frequent acts of inhumanity toward the native populations in Latin America. 

John Quincy Adams Ward, The Freedman, 1863

Although Humboldt deeply admired the democratic institutions of the U.S., he was skeptical of the view of many Americans that slavery and the "Indian problem" would eventually fade away, as the great economic strength of the nation asserted itself. Too much of a diplomat to raise the topic while he was visiting the U.S., Humboldt urged the cause of freedom in his writings upon returning to Europe.

If Humboldt was disappointed with the continuance of African-American slavery in the U.S., his hopes for Latin America were also dashed, following the revolt against Spain led by Simon Bolivar. Everywhere, in Europe as well, the cause of freedom during the early decades of the 1800's seemed to be in retreat.

After Eduard Hildebrandt, Humboldt in His Library, 1856

Humboldt retired to his study to write a book testifying to the power of  Naturgemälde. In this great, multi-volume work, Humboldt aimed to convince the general reading public of the unity of creation where "organic powers are incessantly at work."

Humboldt's book was entitled Cosmos: Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe. Volume I, the product of years of work, was published in 1845. In its pages, Humboldt proclaimed:

Nature is a unity in diversity of phenomena: a harmony, blending together all created things, however dissimilar in form and attributes: one great whole animated by the breath of life.

These words were reassuring, scientifically and spiritually. Humboldt's thesis especially appealed to the citizens of the United States, grappling with complex social issues. Humboldt's ideals were reflected in the paintings of the Hudson River School. One of these influential artists, Frederick E. Church (1826-1900) embraced Humboldt's creed with special fervor.

Church had studied painting with Thomas Cole, who had raised landscape painting in the U.S. almost to the status of religion. When Cole died in 1848, Church was poised to take up his mantle as the prophet-painter of American nature. But in 1853, he made the unexpected move of traveling to South America, following in the footsteps of Humboldt.

The Smithsonian exhibition displayed an impressive array of Church's drawings, oil sketches and finished paintings. 

Ed Voves, Photo (2020) Frederic Edwin Church's Cayambe, 1858
Frederic Edwin Church,
 Mount Chimborazo through Rising Mist and Clouds, 1857

Special emphasis in the exhibit was given to Church's prolonged efforts to depict Mount Chimborazo. This mountain, the scene of Humboldt's mountaineering exploits, came to obsess Church to the point that he repeated Humboldt's perilous climb.

In 1857, Church returned to South America, determined to paint a huge work which would evoke the atmosphere and ambiance of the Andes. Chimborazo would feature in Church's magnum opus, Heart of the Andes, though it was not the focus of the work. Instead, Church presented a "spiritual topography" rather than a depiction of a specific locale. 

Frederic Edwin Church, Study for “The Heart of the Andes”, 1858

This huge work, in its finished form, is one of the key paintings of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection. It is too fragile to be transported to other museums for special exhibitions, but the Smithsonian presented a special audio-visual study exploring how Church created his masterpiece.

Church intended to take Heart of the Andes to Germany to show Humboldt, writing to a friend:

The "Andes" will probably be on its way to Europe before your return to the City ... [The] principal motive in taking the picture to Berlin is to have the satisfaction of placing before Humboldt a transcript of the scenery which delighted his eyes sixty years ago—and which he had pronounced to be the finest in the world.

Sadly, Humboldt died before Church was able to travel to Europe, but the painting created a sensation when it was displayed in London. 

Church followed the great success of Heart of the Andes with "sublime landscapes" set in the United States. During the Civil War years, Church's paintings, extolling the unity of nature, likewise testified to the ideals of political union and individual freedom. 

Humboldt's Naturgemälde became so much an American ideal that it could easily be forgotten that a foreign scholar had originally planted the seed of America the "beautiful." When looking at the sympathetic portraits of Native Americans by George Catlin, several of which were on display in the Smithsonian exhibit, or Carlton Watkins' incredible photo, Cascade, Nevada Falls, Yosemite, California, there is no denying the influence of Humboldt.

Ed Voves, Photo (2020)
     George Catlin's portraits of Little Wolf & Strutting Pigeon, 1844-45

Carleton Watkins, Cascade, Nevada Falls, Yosemite, Calif., ca. 1861

Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture was an outstanding exhibition. Eleanor Jones Harvey, senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, deserves special credit for organizing the exhibit and keeping it open for at least part of its scheduled run. Along with the excellent recent biography of Humboldt, The Invention of Nature, by Andre Wulf, the Smithsonian exhibit has re-established Humboldt's preeminent position as one of the most influential scientists of all time - and especially so for the United States.  

Reflecting upon Humboldt's legacy, I could not help but smile - inwardly - about the "science as the last frontier" rhetoric which used to be a common mantra of TV documentaries.  Alexander von Humboldt was so far ahead of his time that we are still catching up with him. If humankind ever does reach that "last frontier," I have the feeling that Humboldt will already have reached there ahead of us.

  Henry Berger, Bust of Humboldt, 1860


Text: Copyright of Ed Voves, all rights reserved. Humboldt and the United States exhibition images courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.

Introductory Image:                                                                          Friedrich Georg Weitsch, Portrait of Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), 1806. Oil on canvas:49 5/8 x 36 3/8 in. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Photo: bpk Bildagentur / Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin, Germany / Klaus Goeken / Art Resource, NY. 

Ed Voves, Photo (2020) Gallery view of the Humboldt and the United States exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.

Charles Willson Peale, Portrait of Baron von Humboldt, 1804. Oil on canvas: 21 x 17 in., The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, The image of the Baron Von Humboldt is used by kind permission of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Photograph by Constance Mensh, Copyright 2019 by The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland, Géographie des plantes Équinoxiales: Tableau physique des Andes et Pays voisins, from Essai sur la géographie des plantes, 1805. Hand colored print: 24 x 36 in., Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, © Copyright The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Rembrandt Peale, Thomas Jefferson, 1805. Oil on linen: 28 x 23 1/2 in., New-York Historical Society, Gift of Thomas Jefferson Bryan, Photography ©New-York Historical Society.

Ed Voves, Photo (2020) Gallery view of the Humboldt and the United States exhibition, showing the Skeleton of the Mastodon, excavated 1801–2 by Charles Willson Peale. Bone, wood, and papier mâché: approx. 118 × 177 × 65 in., Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt, Germany. 

Charles Willson Peale, Exhumation of the Mastodon, ca. 1806–08. Oil on canvas: 49 x 61 1/2 in.  Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore City Life Museum Collection, Gift of Bertha White in memory of her husband, Harry White, BCLM-MA.5911.

John Quincy Adams Ward, The Freedman, 1863. Bronze: 19 1/2 x 14 11/16 x 9 5/8 in.Boston Athenæum, gift of Elizabeth Frothingham (Mrs. William L.) Parker, 1922, Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum

After Eduard Hildebrandt, Humboldt in His Library, 1856. Chromolithograph on paper: 18 5/8 x 26 5/8 in. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Norfleet Jr., Photo: Travis Fullerton, Courtesy Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Ed Voves, Photo (2020) Frederic Edwin Church's Cayambe, 1858. Oil on canvas: 30.48 x 45.72 cm (12 x 18 in.) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Gift of Martha C. Karolik # 47.1237

Frederic Edwin Church, Mount Chimborazo through Rising Mist and Clouds, 1857. Oil and pencil on paperboard: 13 9/16 x 21 1/8 in. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Gift of Louis P. Church, 1917-4-824, Photo © Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. 

Frederic Edwin Church, Study for “The Heart of the Andes,” 1858. Oil on canvas: 10 1/4 x 18 1/4 in. Olana State Historic Site, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, OL.1981.47.A.B.

Ed Voves, Photo (2020) George Catlin's Shon-ta-yi-ga, Little Wolf, a Famous Warrior, 1844-1845. Oil on canvas. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.521 and Ru-ton-ye-wee-ma, Strutting Pigeon, Wife of White Cloud, 1844. Oil on canvas. Smithsonian American Art Museum.  Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr., 1985.66.525

Carleton E. Watkins, Cascade, Nevada Falls, Yosemite, California, ca. 1861. Albumen silver print:15 5/8 x 20 7/8 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.276. 

Henry Berger, Bust of Humboldt, 1860. Painted plaster: 27 x 16 x 12 1/2 in., The National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.