Wednesday, April 28, 2010

American Pictures Series at Smithsonian Concludes with Historian David Hackett Fischer

Chestertown — On Saturday, May 1, in Washington, D.C., cultural historian David Hackett Fischer will close the 2010 "American Pictures" series with a conversation inspired by Emanuel Leutze's iconic painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware" (1851). The talk will take place in the Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium inside the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery.

A joint program of Washington College, the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the "American Pictures" series offers a highly original approach to the visual arts, pairing great works of art with leading figures of American culture. This spring's all-star line-up features a trio of Pulitzer Prize winners: Fischer, Civil War historian James McPherson (who opened the series on April 10), and cartoonist/author Jules Feiffer (who appeared on April 17). Each speaker 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 College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.

David Hackett Fischer received the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in History for Washington's Crossing (2004, Oxford University Press), an analysis of Washington's battles in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania that was partially inspired by Leutze's romanticized rendition of this pivotal moment in American history. The New York Times called the book "a highly realistic and wonderfully readable narrative of the same moment that corrects all the inaccuracies but preserves the overarching sense of drama."

Fischer is one of this generation's leading scholars of American culture and history, and has described his own work as "a deep affirmation of American values." His other books, (all from Oxford University Press) include Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, (1989); Paul Revere's Ride, (1995); Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America's Founding Ideas, (2004); and Champlain's Dream, (2008) the authoritative biography of French explorer and visionary Samuel de Champlain. A graduate of Princeton and Johns Hopkins Universities, Fischer serves as the Earl Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University, where he has taught since 1962. He is presently at work on two books, a comparative political history of the United States and New Zealand, and a history of the endurance of African folkways in America.

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. Fischer's talk will begin at 4:30 p.m. in the museums' Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium. Tickets are available in the G Street lobby, beginning at 3:30 p.m. No reservations are necessary for the general public.

Students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of Washington College may reserve tickets to this and the other "American Pictures" events on a first-come, first-served basis. The Starr Center is also running free buses from Chestertown to Washington for each talk. For details, please call 410-810-7165 or e-mail For more information on the American Pictures series, visit

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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