Thursday, March 11, 2010

Washington College, Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery Present Third Annual "American Pictures" Series

Bus Transportation Available from Chestertown

A trio of Pulitzer Prize-winning authors are set for the 2010 “American Pictures” series. Civil War historian James M. McPherson; cartoonist, author and illustrator Jules Feiffer; and cultural historian David Hackett Fischer will bring their unique perspectives to three iconic images in this spring's series.

The “American Pictures” series - a joint program of Washington College, the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum - offers a highly original approach to art, pairing great works with leading figures of contemporary American culture. Each talk features an eminent writer, artist, critic or historian who chooses a single, powerful image and investigates its meanings, revealing how artworks reflect American identity and inspire creativity in many different fields. The series director is historian and essayist Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College.

The series begins Saturday, April 10, when James McPherson will speak on Alexander Gardner’s photograph “Confederate Dead by a Fence on the Hagerstown Road, Antietam” (1862), which the speaker will use to explore the experiences of ordinary soldiers in the Civil War. McPherson, a renowned expert on the Civil War, won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Battle Cry of Freedom, which is widely acclaimed as the best single-volume history of the Civil War ever published.

Saturday, April 17, will bring us Jules Feiffer, the well-loved cartoonist, playwright, screenwriter, and children’s book author and illustrator. Feiffer will explore Bob Landry’s visually thrilling photograph “Fred Astaire in ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz,’” (1945), and draw on his forthcoming autobiography to discuss his life’s work as an artist in many different media. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1986 and an Academy Award for his animated short, Munro, in 1961.

The series will conclude on Saturday, May 1, when David Hackett Fischer will take a close look at Emanuel Leutze’s famous “Washington Crossing the Delaware” (1851), a painting that helped inspire his 2005 Pulitzer-winning book, Washington’s Crossing. Fischer is among the foremost scholars of American history and culture whose books include Liberty and Freedom, Paul Revere’s Ride and Champlain’s Dream.

"The idea behind “American Pictures” is to have some of the most brilliant thinkers and writers and creators of the present day step inside some of the most powerful images from the past," said Goodheart, the series director. "The most exciting thing is that each talk is, in effect, a brand-new work that premieres here for the first time."

This is the third year for the “American Pictures” series which has drawn large audiences for such speakers as art-rock pioneer Laurie Anderson, historian Garry Wills, actress/playwright Anna Deavere Smith, and filmmaker John Waters. Support for “American Pictures” comes from the Starr Foundation, the Hodson Trust, the Hedgelawn Foundation, the Washington College Department of Art and Art History and others.

All “American Pictures” events take place at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, located at 8th and F Streets, N.W., in Washington, D.C. These Saturday talks, held in the Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium, will all begin at 4:30 p.m. Free tickets are available beginning at 3:30 p.m. at the G Street lobby information desk on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, visit The Starr center is sponsoring free buses from Chestertown to Washington for the series. Space is limited. To reserve tickets for the talks or to ask about the bus, call Lois Kitz during business hours at 410-810-7165 or send an email at

About the Sponsors

Founded in 1782 under the personal patronage of its namesake, Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, upholds a tradition of excellence and innovation in the liberal arts. The American Pictures series is a project of the college’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and its Department of Art and Art History.

The National Portrait Gallery tells the stories of America through the individuals—poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists—who have built our national culture. It is where the arts keep us in the company of remarkable Americans.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation’s first collection of American art, is an unparalleled record of the American experience. The collection captures the aspirations, character and imagination of the American people from the colonial period to today.

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