Friday, March 23, 2012

Next in "American Pictures" Series: Pulitzer Prize Winner Tony Horwitz on John Brown, April 7

CHESTERTOWN, MD—The 2012 “American Pictures” series at the Smithsonian continues Saturday afternoon, April 7, when Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, travel writer, and historian Tony Horwitz explores a gripping 1872 portrait of John Brown. The white abolitionist is the subject of Horwitz’s most recent book, Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War (2011).
The image of Brown that Horwitz will discuss, a painting by Ole Peter Hansen Balling, is in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection and on display onsite; so visitors will have an opportunity to view the original after the talk.
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 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 favorite image to explore, revealing how artworks reflect American identity and inspire creativity in many different fields.
This spring’s all-star line-up features four of America’s most celebrated and multi-talented writers: Horwitz; renowned illustrator and writer Maira Kalman (who appeared on March 24); biographer Edmund Morris, who will speak on April 21; and memoirist, novelist, and musician James McBride, who will conclude the series on May 12. The series director is historian Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.
Tony Horwitz has garnered a national following for his signature writing style, which blends travel writing and history, inviting readers into the adventure of exploring the past. A graduate of Columbia University School of Journalism, Horwitz spent a decade overseas as a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. After returning to the United States, he worked as a staff writer for the New Yorker before becoming a full-time author.
His books include four New York Times bestsellers: Confederates in the Attic (1998), A Voyage Long and Strange (2008), Blue Latitudes (2002), and Baghdad Without a Map (1991). Horwitz has been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and a visiting scholar at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.
Ole Peter Hansen Balling’s portrait of Brown in captivity after his abortive 1859 raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry is striking for what it reveals – as well as what it hides – about the famed abolitionist, who remains a lightning rod for controversy more than 150 years after his death. Born in Norway, Balling emigrated to the United States in 1856. After serving briefly in the Union Army, he spent five weeks encamped with General Ulysses S. Grant, sketching Union commanders in the field. After Lee’s surrender, he turned to painting Northern “war heroes” – ranging from William Tecumseh Sherman to John Brown.
All “American Pictures” events take place at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, located at 8th and G Streets, N.W., in Washington, D.C. Horwitz’s talk will begin at 2 p.m. in the museums’ Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium. Free tickets are available beginning at 1:30 p.m. at the G Street lobby information desk on a first-come, first-served basis. No reservations are necessary for the general public.
Students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of Washington College may reserve from a special block of American Pictures tickets on a first-come, first-served basis. The Starr Center will also run free buses from Chestertown to Washington for each talk. Buses will depart at 10:30 a.m. and leave D.C. for the return trip at 7:30 pm. For details or to make a reservation, please call 410-810-7165 or e-mail For more information, 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 Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the history of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story.
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.