Monday, March 15, 2010

Director of National Gallery of Art to Deliver Janson-La Palme Lecture

Chestertown, MD — The Washington College Department of Art and Art History and Kohl Gallery present the Janson-La Palme Annual Distinguished Lecture in European Art History, "The National Gallery in the New Century,” a talk by Earl A. Powell III, Director of the National Gallery of Art, to be held Monday, April 5, 5:30 p.m., in the Hotchkiss Recital Hall, Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts.  The event is free, and the public is invited to attend.

In 1992, Earl A. Powell III, known as "Rusty," became only the fourth director of the National Gallery of Art, which opened to the public in 1941. This world-renowned collection has more than 107,000 European and American paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, books, and decorative arts dating from the 13th century to the present. Five to six million people a year view the Gallery’s masterpieces of Western art, including one of the world’s finest collections of French impressionism and the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the Western Hemisphere.

Born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Powell graduated with honors from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and received an A.M. and a Ph.D. from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, where he specialized in 19th- and 20th-century European and American art. He served as an officer in the U.S. Navy from 1966 to 1969 and in the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1976 to 1980 as a commander.

Powell served as curator of the Michener Collection and assistant professor of art history at the University of Texas at Austin from 1974 to 1976. During the next four years, while he held curatorial posts at the National Gallery of Art, he was deeply involved in the installation and opening of the East Building. From 1980 to 1992, Powell was director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which he transformed, according to Art in America magazine, "from a local institution to a museum of international stature."

Powell’s book on the American landscape painter Thomas Cole was published in 1990. Under Powell’s leadership, the National Gallery of Art, which represents a partnership of federal and private resources, has added more than 12,000 works of art to its collection, established an award-winning Web site and a visitor-friendly interactive Micro Gallery, created innovative programs for children and families, opened a 6.1-acre Sculpture Garden and a 25,000-square-foot suite of sculpture galleries featuring 900 works of art, and presented some 150 exhibitions, including international blockbusters such as Johannes Vermeer, Van Gogh’s Van Goghs, and The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt. The Gallery is constantly exploring new ways of utilizing technology to further its mission of making the collection accessible to the citizens of the United States. According to Powell, "Technology offers phenomenal potential for the Gallery to be helpful in the area of public education and cultural awareness for all ages."

Powell Chairs the United States Commission of Fine Arts, serves as a trustee of such organizations as the National Council on the Arts (the advisory body of the National Endowment of the Arts), the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and he is a member of numerous other organizations, including the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities, the National Portrait Gallery Commission, and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.  For his singular achievements, he has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Williams College (1993); the King Olav Medal, awarded by King Olav V of Norway (1978), for Edvard Munch: Symbols and Images, National Gallery of Art; the Grand Official Order of the Infante D. Henrique medal, awarded by the Government of Portugal (1995), for The Age of the Baroque in Portugal, National Gallery of Art; the Mexican Cultural Institute Award (1996); the Commendatore dell’Ordine al Merito della Republica Italiana, awarded by the Government of Italy (1998); the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, awarded by the French Government (2000); the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, awarded by the Mexican Government (2007); the Centennial Medal, awarded by the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; and the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary (2009).

The Janson-La Palme Annual Distinguished Lecture in European Art History was established by Washington College Professor Emeritus Robert J. H. Janson-La Palme and his wife, Bayly, to bring internationally known scholars on European art to campus for public lectures and presentations. Previous lecturers in the series include Nicholas Penny (presently Director of the National Gallery of London, but formerly of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), Jonathan Brown (Institute of Fine Arts, NYU), the late Robert Rosenblum (Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, and Guggenheim Museum), Paul Barolsky (University of Virginia), and Peter Humfrey (St. Andrews University, Scotland).

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