tv American Artifacts Americas Story in Portraits CSPAN December 25, 2018 7:00pm-7:41pm EST
>> watch this another american history programs on our website where all of our video is archived. that c-span.org/history . >> each week american artifacts takes fears and archives, museums and historic sites around the country, the smith story and national portrait gallery opened its doors in 1968, next, the director shows 12 painting set of told the american story over the last half-century . >> welcome, i'm the director of the national portrait gallery at the smithsonian institute here in washington d.c. i'm going to take you on a tour of 12 remarkable americans because that was given to us by congress when we were founded in 1962. we are standing in the old patent office, a place you came
to register inventions and it became a museum in 1968 when we open to the public. this is our 50th anniversary . >> the charter that was handed to us by congress was to collect men and women made a national impact of america's history and culture. i use that word impact, advisedly because of course we had people like john wilkes booth who assassinated lincoln and then s. aureus gangster al capone. there's no moral test to be in the portrait gallery, were not hall of heroes, it's a place to reflect how most people would've change the national conversation and got us to where we are today. so, let's start with the first lady michelle obama. you've probably already heard of about this and it's caused quite a lot of discussion across the internet we've had
many visitors come to visit michelle. this is a portrait by a woman who a few years earlier when our portrait competition. here you will see a fantastic picture of michelle obama, sitting outside of the sitting was done in the fresh air but you can see it's a blue background that she is wearing a wonderful dress that is very appealing because it's relating to modern art and looks like a painting but it also has a crib like effect that gave michelle obama things about the quotes made by ancestors of enslaved women. most interesting aspect of this portrait is the gray skin tone the artist used to depict an
african-american woman. she said she was actually channeling the history of african-american portraiture. of course, when you were enslaved you are unlike to get a portrait of yourself made, it's very expensive. so the change happened with the topography. they can have portraits taken of their friends and beloveds. amy cheryl carries around with her a beautiful picture of her grandmother, black and white portrait. she said, i think i was unconsciously tapping into the image of this beautiful self- assured and very intelligent woman. >> she made a point of saying i'd like to address russians of past racial identity. we are a large country that has people very different identities
and she said this is a portrait of a strong woman who's made a difference. some people may have actually seen the wonderful moment around march in 2018 with a three-year-old who was caught gazing at mrs. obama. later on when she was asked what did you see, parker, she said i thought she was the queen. >> let's go to another very different but equally colorful and interesting portrait. crossing the delaware dressed as george washington. remember, i said there was no moral test to be in the portrait gallery. only people who automatically get in , presidents and first
ladies. so, you might ask, how do you get your picture into the portrait gallery? >> we have historians and art historians and the history museum as well as an art museum. it starts with the sitter and the biography of the person in the portrait. we have to ask ourselves, has the person change the way america look at itself or advanced its culture? >> publicly no big surprise to anyone, portraiture was the latest artform and was reserved for those who could vote. white man who owned land. in fact, in order to have a painted portrait done of yourself, it was very expensive and portraiture didn't come into its own until photography, when everyone could make a portrait of someone they know. so, what's interesting from a historian point of view is there are many people in
history whose portraits were never depict did because they may have been enslaved or may have been a migrant or might have even just been a woman. so one of the projects we've had here in the portrait gallery is ask ourselves how do we represent the great feel of america, e pluribus unum, out of many, one. if you had been asian-american, it was very unlike that you would become a governor or a congressperson, let alone president of the united states, because there was some form of the asian exclusion act in place until 1965. so, this is a very interesting picture i'm about to show you. it's a very large and colorful picture of crossing the delaware and our audiences love it. in the top right-hand corner you will see a silhouette that looks a bit like a record,.
this is george washington crossing the delaware, what he's done is put himself as the person, george washington. in the background, instead of delaware, what you see is angel island on the west coast, it's the ellis island of california to where immigrants would come to this country and clear customs to a brand-new life. they came and entered america through angel island. so here you have them dressed as washington, in the boat and instead of having soldiers from the american revolution, as
george washington would have it, he has friends dressed as samurais. if you look at their faces they are nervous. there looking up at him and saying, you sooner about this, we going to this new country? he is looking and saying yes we are going to do that. >> this looks like a japanese wood block print and what has happened is roger has taken his culture from japan and merged it with his personal history and put it into something that relates much to american history . >> let's go down the whole through this gray hole, incidentally it was the largest place to have a party in 1860s. >> president lincoln, love to advise the people of everything
he did. he says come to my inauguration and they did. the next morning they had to carry drunken people out from under the tables. this has a lot to do with our history. i would love to show you a cool new tool that we just introduced, and app you can download onto your phone call smart if i. once you have it loaded you hold it up to a painting and it will be to buy facial recognition and soon you can see all the information about the portrait is available . why am i showing you this? the portrait gallery is going bilingual call of our labels are in english and spanish and soon everything will be available in two languages on
the apps. also you will get audio and video and interesting things you can also access from home. this is a portrait who is not an american, she's mexican. why do i have a non-american, men and women have had an impact on america, most people from america there are many people who've come to change the culture. known much for her are she created a beautiful portrait for her home country but also came to the united states with her hundred and has been in california and new york and did many self-portraits. it shows her in native dress.
it was very important to show she was a proud mexican woman who wears beautiful jewelry and an ambassador for her culture. she bought that and believed it was important to learn for each other in our cultures and the good of everybody. it's a wonderful portrait and were pleased to have it here. we show the cross-cultural impact that america has had from nations around the world . >> let's go downstairs to look at the american presidents, starting of course with george washington. here we are in the hall of americans presidents and when you come to the portrait gallery, don't forget to pick up the brochure because it does real work. you you can see all the presidents we've had today i
one piece of paper or plastic it on your fridge. >> i would like to introduce you to a painting of one of the most impaired americans we've ever had, george washington. it was painted in 1796 by gilbert stuart, in philadelphia. why is it so important? it's the portrait of the man who invented the presidency. he was not only america's first president but he came out of retirement. there were no political parties at the time and he was general of the army and had done an amazing job of granting independence that everyone said, george no one can do you better than this. came to be the first president and you notice in the picture that he has a ceremonial sword by his side, recognizing the fact he been a soldier.
this is important because it's considered a moment when he's addressing congress. this started with george washington gesturing out to his audience in his fourth term of congress. this is a moment where you see a lot of symbolism you can see a rainbow and if you follow the rainbow down to the picture it lands on the curious silver in well, take a good look it's a reproduction of noah's ark sitting on 2 feet that look like dogs. if you know your bible, it was noah's ark out of the old testament where god made it rain for 40 days and 40 nights and every morning the animals would
send out a dove, can you see what is sitting in the inkwell? it's a white dove feather and also a pen in this case. but the idea here is that america had been blasts blessed by god, creating a new world after what had happened in europe. people were coming here to start a new life and, these dogs are about loyalty and fidelity. you will also see in the picture a whole series of books, he wasn't just a soldier, he was a scholar and those books represent the eyes of the confederation, the constitution of the united states and other laws that we believed would govern the way people would work together. this was a new experiment this democracy that had been taken from greek times and had been
discussed by cicero in roman times but was the founders that suggested there was a way that the people could govern themselves. this painting was created for the earl of lansdowne and was sent to great britain, he being the prime minister of britain and much admired what had been happening in the colonies and quite supported their search for independence. this is a gift . there's a number of copies including the pennsylvania academy in pennsylvania. you'll often see pictures of the president standing in front of a copy of this painting but we have the first. another thing you'll see in this picture are other symbols such as a little flag and you will see an open curtain, a
bold new horizon and a brand- new day and a curious way of this composition is that the president came out like a senator in a roman forum. it turns out, this picture has an antecedent, a famous painting done by ramsey of the hated king george the third. in that picture he's dressed in german wearing the crown and he is tripping in jewels and everything that comes with inherited loyalty and wealth. he was in a simple black velvet suit but for those in those times, he would've been unmistakably a new leader, someone elected and not born into office. >> so now, let's go have a look at lincoln and the civil war.
>> one of the questions people are always asking is how do we know that portrait is accurate. how do we know that the artist have made a good likeness of the person in the portrait. one answer to that is to make life maps affecting a long history of people sitting down to have clay put on their face because it was more scientific. so one of the things you should think about is who is really in control . >> i also think of it as a three-legged stool. on one corner you have a sitter and if they're famous there's a definite idea of how they like to be remembered in history. on the other leg you have the artist with their own artistic expression and they don't want anyone to tell them what to do. but on the third leg you have us and we are the audience and
when the artist and sitter are no longer with us you get audiences coming to see. so, who is in control and how much of this is a true likeness. of course when topography comes along this is the feeling that it's the most scientific way to capture a portrait but we know in the age of selfies, that's not true. you can manipulate a portrait this is much as you can change a painting or sculpture. here's an incredible series of life masks of abraham lincoln. >> this is a wonderful story of george washington having a life masks being put on and as the clay was trying martha washington will walked into the room and started laughing. there's a crack in his mouth because he started to smile.
in this case, you can see the first life mask of lincoln in 1860. he's just an elected president and no one expected this and certainly not lincoln and you can see he's looking pretty good. he doesn't have a beard and he's looking young. he hasn't entered into the white house yet but he's on his way. >> now, look at the second life mask. it's a credit that he came back the second time because you have to sit there for something like 40 minutes to let this dry and you can't move. it must've been pretty claustrophobic. who did sit in this is in 1865. can you believe this is only five years apart? a little less actually. the second life mask you see lincoln is looking exhausted, he has a beard but he also has deep sunken eyes and wrinkles.
this of course is the result of the civil war. at this point, it was over and reconstruction was to begin and he was really. but, the toll that it took on him literally showed on his face. you can absolutely see with the two casts of his hands, in the first hand in 1860, he's looking pretty good, in the second hand, it looks like an old man's hand. >> so, now, let's go have a look at the touch tables, when you come to the portrait gallery, you can learn a lot by technology and we do have a new website that you can explore even more. the museum writes about 140 words in spanish and english for you to read in the galleries. can you imagine trying to explain lincoln in 140 words? it's not possible. this is where technology can come to our rescue and you can learn so much more.
let's go have a look. >> if you remember, we collect presidents automatically and in fact we have them, 1600 pictures of presidents and on these touch tables you can actually see 800 of them. one of the marvelous things is that you can get really close, especially the sculptures. let's look at the lincoln life mask again to touch that in view the object. i can make it bigger or smaller and i can look all around and even underneath. do you want to see what lincoln city looked like? you can get a close look . >> this will also tell you a little bit about his life, the highlight stories, and other types of pictures of lincoln that we have in the collection. here's an early photograph this is a picture of a manager, look how close you can get .
>> now we have another picture of a president done of john f. kennedy shortly before he died. you see it's really colorful and what we would call expressionistic with a brush stroke. this is because of a movement called abstract expressionism including people like and lee krasner and even her husband, dylan de kooning. the thing was she could never quite give up the human figure. she loved to show people and was commissioned to do this portrait by the truman library in kansas city because they had a tradition of making a portrait of the sitting president. she was invited to palm beach florida which was the winter white house during the administration. the first day when he came out,
he had a t-shirt on. mr. president, you can't come dressed like that, this is your official portrait. he said that your problem, not mine. now, you will notice, there's a lot of color and when asked about that she said, everyone knows him from the television. back then it was black and white but he had a golden aura around him, a light. i wanted that to come out. he also noticed i was perched at the end of his chair showing he found it difficult to sit still for a long time. the family chiseling and wanted a woman artist. they wanted somebody to spread this new brash way of making a painting that was very american. more importantly, they wanted somebody who could paint quickly because he was always
in pain. they often hurt himself during the war. severe we have this amazing painting. this was the last portrait taken and elaine was so devastated she stopped painting for your afterward. now, let's look at another president, george walker bush number 43. >> painted by his class roommate, robert anderson in 2008, one of the things you will notice when you come into the galleries is as you get closer to modern times, the portraits become more modern and a lot more relaxed. at the time of this unveiling, there was a little bit of a twitter about the fact that the president was not wearing a tie. here he is sitting in camp david a few months before he left office with an open college denim shirt. he's very
approachable and pick something sympathetic. it's very different from the portrait of his father. bushes standing in the white house in a pinstriped suit. >> let's go have a look at the latest portrait we have of president barack obama. >> this was painted 10 years after the portrait of george bush. if you look closely, you can see similarities, both men are sitting down and neither are wearing a tie much is been discussed about the first african-american to do a portrait of a sitting president broke with convention. it certainly very grainy and in some respects he was looking at that portrait of elaine taccone of john f. kennedy. what is
happening here? when we looked at george washington there were lots of symbols i think this is the next time an artist tried to put symbolism in a presidential portrait. he's in a garden in the leaves i believe are wild roses. they are little butted roses what's the symbol of the rose? every valentine's day we give them as a significant gift of love. >> the flowers, chrysanthemums, the official flower of chicago where, barack obama was a senator. then, we have little white flowers, jasmine. is a type of jasmine that goes into the ladies in hawaii and also a type of jasmine that comes from indonesia relating to childhood.
finally, purple flowers are known as african the lease to promote kenya such here we have barack obama in the garden of his history, his biography. one of the things the artist mentioned was that it almost seemed like the leaves in the garden were creeping over his shoes and bringing him back. , he's well known for the colors and is a bit of a hip-hop artist and he's often taking african- american men and women and put them into wonderful settings. for example there's a great picture in our gallery of ll cool j looking like nelson rockefeller. the president didn't want anything like that so he created a whole new way of thinking not just about how to depict the presidency but how to actually break the conventions was dale embracing
past tradition. it's a wonderful picture and we get a lot of people coming to pay respects to the most recent president. started on the third floor and were now on the second floor let's go to the first floor and look at some of americans origins, the people who made the country . >> i want to introduce you to an interesting picture, it's called the mint of progress. why is this so interesting? i like to think of the quote by pablo picasso that says if art is a light illustrates this truth, that also pertains to portraits. remember the conversation about the three- legged stool? how an artist wants to depict them >> if you were to look at this picture of 19 men of progress, you would see all the inventors
of america, seated at the table with the telegraph also at the table with the mr. goodyear who invented the goodyear tile and also a small model of a beeper created by mr. mccormick. me have a gun and also to people creating inventions . >> apparently, this picture was taken in the patent office. more curiously we know in the background is a picture of the patron of invention in america, benjamin franklin. we know these nine men didn't get in a room together and stand immediately so everyone could be seen. these people were depicted
separately and added into this group picture. then we ask why are there only men of progress and where they all white? where are the women and people of color? this is the way that we could tell america we were the greatest of inventions, but it was being led by men and not women and certainly not anyone outside of that club. in fact, i looked into this these are the patents coming in small little models registered in the patent office so no one would copy their ideas. there was well over 2000 patent submitted at the time of this painting by women. this is very selective history.
it's very selective portraiture. sometimes what we see is more about what's left out than what's included. so now let's go have a look at somebody who rarely would have had a portrait taken. >> because she was a woman . >> have you ever heard of the adage, well-behaved woman, rarely make history. that's absolutely true. unless you are married to somebody or somebody's mother, women rarely have their portraits made, only about a quarter -- painted by the portrait artist charles wilson peel out of philadelphia. she looks like somebody's grandma someone's on. she has her hair up very neatly
and is fairly middle-class if not upper-class. but why did she have her portrait made, when very few women did? the clue is on the bottom of the picture you see her holding a newspaper and it's not just any newspaper, it's the maryland gazette. and was married to jonah screen and he actually was the editor of the maryland gazette. this was a time when everyone at the news for many different types of newspapers that would spring up overnight. it was the major way to find news about the war of independence. but, unfortunately, jonas died and despite the fact that and had had 14 children, she managed to run the paper. she didn't just run it she got it out of the red, her husband was not a good businessman, he'd run the business into debt
and not only raised her family but got the paper out of debt this picture was painted by citizens of maryland, in annapolis, recognizing her achievement as a woman of courage and extraordinary distinction. >> when they were setting up the laws for this nation they decided carefully to set rate church and state. opinion that people would be coming from around the world to set up a new life in a new country. some came willingly and others did not. enslave at the age of 16 and very learned. speaking fluent arabic and was a practicing muslim praying throughout the day.
he was granted freedom at the age of 60 from the plantation and went to work as a handyman in georgetown where he help build rooms and fix fences and earned enough money for his retirement, buying a house and having a savings account in a local bank. >> >> we all look the know the story of christopher columbus and when he arrived on north american shores, there were people here many tribes of native americans who called america home. here we have a portrait of pocahontas done by an unknown artist based on engraving in 1616. this picture became quite famous because it helped the european settlers make themselves feel better . >> pocahontas is well known.
she later converts to christianity, marries a british man and goes to england and is introduced to royalty. in this picture, you can see she's being remade as a good colonialists of the british empire. she's wearing a very fancy dress and holding a fan. they even went so far as to lighten her skin to make her more palatable for the audience at that time. this is an interesting story about how america wanted to be seen and how it justifies what happened with early colonialism and the story of the native americans. we started with michelle obama, the first african-american first lady of the united states.
me and with pocahontas who was a native american princess, both incredibly strong women really lead and change the way they think about this nation. >> soon, we will be recognizing other amazing women as it's coming up to the 100 year anniversary of women's right to vote in the passing of the 19th amendment in 1920. it hasn't even been 100 years since women have been able to have a hand in the political process. also cussing on display is the life of marian anderson who is banned from singing in the hall and had to stand up on the lincoln memorial steps as an opera singer to proclaim that she indeed had a voice. it's an exciting time to be in america, it's an exciting time to be thinking about how we live together or what future we
want and were in pretty good shape looking at someone like pocahontas bringing us to michelle obama and all the people who helped change the history and culture of the united states of america. >> you can watch this or other american artifacts programs anytime by visiting our website , c-span.org/history. >> when the new congress takes office in january it will have the youngest most diverse freshman class in recent history. new congress, new leaders. watch it live on c-span starting january 3. >> watch our films on public affairs each week on our series real america, saturday at 10 pm and sunday at 4 p.m. eastern on american history tv. here's a quick look at one of our recent programs.
>> you can watch archival films on public affairs a weekly series real america saturday at 10 pm and sunday at 4 pm eastern time here on american history tv . >> each week, american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places to learn about american history. in addition to his mt. vernon assay along the potomac river, george washington owned a townhouse in the heart of alexandria virginia the current owner of the property covered garcia talks about his family's connection to the washington's and the archaeology of two recently discovered wells. they also visit the archaeologically museum to see artifacts that have been uncovered. >> here in alexandria virginia, a beautiful town established in 1749. in a house born