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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  September 27, 2015 6:00pm-6:29pm EDT

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some flooding occurred in tampico, but flooding was not expected on the texas side of the rio grande. thurgood marshall, the first negro deserve on the united eight supreme court, put on his robes with the assistance of his wife. president johnson named marshall to replace a retiree. justice marshall, the great-grandson of a slave, swore to do equal rights to the poor and the rich. you are watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. each week, american history tvs american artifacts visits museums and historic places. dedicated on march 17, 1941, the national gallery of art was a
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gift to the american people from asrew mellon who served treasury secretary until 1932. up next week visit the museum to learn about early american portrait painting and work of john singleton copley. dianne: hello. we are standing in a room full of portraits i john singleton copley, america's most important colonial portrait painter. i think as a look around the you can think back to the words of john adams 1817 who said when you see his portraits, you want a discourse with him, you want to asking questions and want toanswers -- you ask him questions and receive answers. in the early part of the 18th century, american early painters
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made ambitious but tentative efforts to capture the likeness of people on canvas because portraiture was really the only way to do that. it was the most type -- the most important type of painting in the colonies. there was a great flourishing of activity with johnson will copley that became -- with john singleton copley. are two of the first high-level portrait painters. unfortunately in some ways, but fortunately others, west he in his career to england to study where he had a incredibly successful career. he became the portrait painter to the king. copley stayed on -- stayed in boston for the first 20 years of his career. he eventually left and went to
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study with west, but we have 20 years of copley or trista look at first. let's start with this one of f sergeant, a 70-year-old new englander. whoas a wealthy merchant lived in gloucester, massachusetts. by the time he died, he owned most of rochester -- how chester -- focused or -- of a man whoense has done well, happy with this position in life. apley has given us representation of his features and we have a sense of his status and his feeling about himself. has a great attention to detail. he does not leave anything out.
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he has the mole under the left eye there. his somewhat wrinkled skin is per trade. -- is portrayed. he's filling out his jacket. and the hand he has in front of him. i think the stewart -- the painter jon stewart said of the hand that if you took that hand -- that if you print that hand, blood would come out it was so realistic. there was no effort to make it pretty. he is leaninghat -- leaning on an antique column. that copley gets much of his training from the fact that his father was an toraver and he had access many engravings from europe.
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this compositional idea probably came from that. i love to look at this. it must be his waistcoat showing through, the little gold here. he is dressed very conservatively in very simple cloth but he has that gold brocade coming through. graduate and if you look across the room, this is the same man painted 12 years this man was his -- who was painted 12 years later was his classmate in harvard. little do they think they would be hanging together in this gallery. -- i thinkhampshire he owned land in new hampshire and was a massachusetts merchant and political figure. he was 82 when this was painted and copley has shown him as he was. you will notice the way he
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painted the face and hands. changed his technique, so the hands are painted with a little more fluid paint and the face as well. it's easier to show the details. copley is changing and developing as he goes along through his career in boston. copley's portraits of men shows these very substantial figures who look comfortable and their setting and you have a sense that these two men had successful lives and that they were in a good place. his paintings of women sometimes are just so beautiful in their attention to fabric and texture and the beauty of the skin like this portrait of an fairchild. 1762, aboutnted in the same time as he was painting
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sergeant, but it is a totally different approach. look at the fabric and the garland of flowers she is holding. you can see his training and engraving and fine detail. column in a with a very classical setting that he probably saw in european engravings. there is an interesting story to this woman, she was married to metcalfe bowler. key belated a huge amount of wealth in the shipping industry and they had a home in newport. he was very active in political affairs as a judge. 1763, he had a few related so much wealth that they retired to their country estate in new hampshire where they had 70
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acres, a lemon of which were devoted to green houses and which were11 of devoted to green houses and gardens. the war came along and the british soldiers ravished the estate. the income from shipping totally stopped and things got very hard for metcalfe. it was only discovered in the 20th century that at that point, he corresponded with general british who was the soldier -- british commander of the area. he looked to him, offering intelligence in exchange for protection from the soldiers and some cash. this was not discovered until the 20th century when the clinton papers went to the library and the correspondence was discovered.
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it does not look like he got much assistance or protection for money -- or money. his circumstances were considerably reduced after the war. he had his wife moved to providence where he set up a shop. the question is, did she know about his traitorous activities? we don't know, but it does not take away from this beautiful portrait of this very confident, self-assured looking young woman. room ofportrait in this a woman by copley is this one of abigail smith, the wife of another wealthy merchant who was not a spy, he was a patriot and he provided ships and assistance
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to the revolutionary troops. beautifulwn in this stylish dress. you often see it in white but this style that comes from ancient greece or turkish with the gold and pearl belt that she is wearing, she has that incredible tape which makes you think, was that hers or was that something copley used in his studio? we don't know but he did paint many people in a cape like that. she is holding a beautiful garnet bracelet and she is holding onto the class and the beads -- the clasp and the beads. you will see as we go to the gallery that many times, the orband and wife were painted children were painted, these are
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family portraits or efforts to portray the entire family. they would have been the only way of recording a likeness because photography was not available yet. they were hung in homes a list reduced to a political moves -- unless they were used in a political sense. ones --one of the last ira member that he painted her husband as well, mr. adam babcock. this was done in 1774 which were some of the last ones copley painted before he left boston for europe. he had a lucrative practice. knewnk in 1774, he patriots and loyalists. he worked amongst both and he got tired of the turmoil.
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it became not particularly lucrative because nobody was thinking about having a portrait made when the revolutionary activities were becoming so prevalent. he decided this was the time to go. he left his wife and four children in boston and went to england and then italy to study. butwife met him in england i don't think that was a sailor plan -- that was necessarily the plan. things were so turbulent here that he decided it was safer for her to come to england so she came with her father. in 1774d, copley decided it was time to leave boston and go to europe to study. he had been encouraged by benjamin west to come for years.
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he decided the revolutionary coming -- the revolution coming was not good for portraits. he went to england briefly and then went to italy to study for a year. his wife and four children were left behind with her father and the eventually joined him in london. when copley came back to london after his year in italy, he was pleased to be reunited with his family, and he painted this portrait in celebration of that reunion. this is copley in the back holding some sheets of paper and his family of the foreground. his wife with his young son and his father-in-law who is holding the youngest child, the recently born baby. there is an interesting story about that and the other two.
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they are a sensibly and the home on leicester square that richard clarke owned. the background is kind of an italian background in landscape at copley must have learned how to do while he was in italy. learned that his wife at coachella dude: he was still in italy -- his wife had come to london, he was still in italy. she left her youngest son behind and he died in january and never came to england. when copley started this painting of his family, the baby would have been the child, but they died and copley must have known his wife was expected in -- expecting another one, so he left the space for the child in the painting.
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his image of his wife reminds you of an italian madonna and again it betrays his study in italy for the year before he came. we are sitting in furniture that would've been in their home in london. was a merchant in leaning and ity was his tea that had been dumped into the boston harbor for the boston tea parker -- the boston tea party. he probably had good reason to leave for england. this whole idea of a group portrait is something new, much beyond what the early artists in america could do. very baroque and
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complicated idea to carry off and copley learned this while he was settling -- studying in italy. the only -- room withk and the copley portraits and this is another group portrait that he painted when he went to england. it's very sophisticated on his part to capture a modern day history scene. the painting was commissioned by a brook watson and he was in london. this is a minute happened to him when he was a young man on a merchant ship. they were outside of havana when he decided to go for a swim in the water and was attacked by a shark and these are men coming to his rescue. he did lose his leg in this effort that he later saw in life
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way of dealing with adversity and conquering it. it was sort of a moral lesson. he commissioned the painting tubers -- to preserve posterity that he triumphed over this great adversity. an amazing painting by copley who had never seen a sharp before. that shark has years. ears.s let's look at this portrait by edward savage, another american painter who was self trained. copley would've said he was self trained to, but he had his father-in-law to teach him and then he went to work. this is edward savage who was self trained and this painting was done in 1789, after the
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revolutionary war. this is washington with his family. there is similar to the copley with his family but this is george washington who by this time is the central focus of life in america. he is seated with his family at mount vernon, george dressed in his revolutionary war uniform and martha washington dressed in beautiful gray satin with a lace shawl. table has his hand on the in the center of the composition and his other arm is resting on his young ward and step who george and martha called wash. these are marked as grandchildren, the children of her son jackie custis who died very early at age 26 of what
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might've been cabin fever, maybe typhoid. these children came to live with martha and george when he was and innt in philadelphia new york and then they came to mount vernon. they were very close, part of the family. george washington had high hopes for young wash but they did not quite work out. he was not ready to take on the kind of activities that george washington had hoped with government and all, but he has his arm resting on him and you can see on wash his hand on the globe which is vivian and asian of those hopes or him. martha and nelly are holding a map and martha is pointing to something on the map which might be pennsylvania avenue or the grand avenue, something on bibby were the white house would be.
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where theng on maybe white house would be. servantentified black in the corner of the painting -- it's not known, it might be meant to portray washington's very devoted personal slave who was with him through the war. his name was will -- william lee , whom washington freed with his will. or it may have just been to add or make it known that it was a virginia planter home. is forw of the potomac washington. it was a commission for a that is whatavage led to this commission. i'm not sure where it hung.
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i think savage showed it and it was more -- i think it may have been something savage kept and allowed people to see and it was -- because people were so interested. it was the talk of philadelphia when it was being painted. george washington was so important and everyone wanted an image of him. every painter wanted to paint him and everyone wanted a company -- a copy of those paintings. this was popular and it was reproduced many times by print engravings. it was engraved before it was even finished because there are washons of it that show and nelly much younger than they were. then he went back and changed it because they had grown. they had grown is a few years time.
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rethink them, and so there are engraved versions that are different. we will see nelly custis again in another room data by stuart -- painted by stuart. there is another painting in this room by copley that i wanted to point out. we will see this young woman's husband in a later room, this is elizabeth gray, and she is painted in a very fantastic way. he has shown her as a shepherd us with a crook -- a shepherdess with a crook. boda's --d samuel samuel otis who was the mother of james otis and mercy otis warren who were very prominent revolutionary advocates. wrote in favoren
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of american liberties and james otis was a politician who supported the revolution, as did his brother samuel. whofather, harrison gray copley also painted was a torre and left for england when the revolution broke out. this painting ended up with her, so whether he left it with her as a way of remembering him, we but this is an instance of a family being torn apart by the revolutionary war. she stayed with her husband and family who supported the revolution. this painting was cut back at some point and cut down on the sides. you can see the tip of her shepherd's crook was cut off and the giver fingers there on the bottom was cut off, perhaps even cutting off her hand. we do not know why it was cut back at some point. sometimes people did it just to
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make it fit a frame. in this room, there are many different paintings by current american artist. the one i want to focus on is charles -- charles wilson peel. he is another person who painted washington many times. we don't have that here but we do have this interesting wortley.of john he was an american painter who was a tremendously energetic man who always had projects going. he made saddles ended metalwork. he was born in maryland and lived in annapolis. totraveled around philadelphia in various places to do portraits. englandually went to and study for a couple of years with benjamin west.
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benjamin west was an amazing figure who welcomed almost every painter we will talk about today except for savage. west was always welcoming and he never held anything back. he told everything he knew, so he was willing to share everything he knew. this painting is a man who was a lawyer and a businessman in annapolis. he is one of the men who put money together in order to send charles to england to study with west. he and about 10 men put together funds in order to give charles a fellowship with benjamin west and then he came back to paint in annapolis and eventually moved to philadelphia. this painting shows him in a very -- the message of this painting is at the american colonies will not tolerate
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british control. wasfeeling was that britain going back on her word that american collison -- colonies were british citizens and should be treated as such. it shows two things, the abundance of the american and this man's point was that americans could be economically self-sufficient. he made his own beer. he had his own homespun probe -- clothing. he did not want to rely on england for anything. you can see sheep grazing on his wife plantation and a pack horse -- his wide plantation and a pack horse over here. ap true -- a peach tree above him. all of these things attest to to ability of the colonies sustain themselves economically. there are things that point to english law.
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he is pointing to a figure of a justice standing on a column that says english law. the idea, this thing that is torn refers to the english attempt to tax the colonies differently than they tax people in england. he is basically saying the lawn england says this and you are trying to do this, you are treating us differently and that should not be. this is a political statement, very complicated iconography that probably worked out with charles and they were both -- charles was a very prominent republican politician in favor of american or public -- american republic. the paintings are here for us to look at, there is no filter on them. the only filter is what we might bring to them, but if we look carefully and try to understand them, i think they are a great
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source for understanding who the people were and what life was like at that time. >> this was the first of a two part look at american portraits at the national gallery of art. you can view this and all other american history tv programs at our website, c-span.org/history. network to assist escaping slaves, the underground railroad ran from the southern slaveholding states to the northern states and canada. next, author c.r. gibbs outlines the underlying -- the underground railroad network in washington, d.c.. he discusses members of congress and other political figures involvement in an stance on helping escaped slaves and points out some underground railroad locations in the district of columbia. the d.c. public library hosted this 90 minute event. evening,d

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