New Paintings For BarryPosted: December 8, 2015 Filed under: America Since 1945, art history, painting Leave a comment
Why did Obama talk in this weird way, and not sitting at the desk? I dunno, but it looks like he got some new paintings for the Oval Office to replace Childe Hassam. I learn they are Josephine Hopper’s, on loan from the Whitney:
Says Whitney curator Dana Miller:
How did you feel when you saw the works installed on the Oval Office wall? Does their new context change the way they read?
There was something pretty wonderful about the way the light was streaming into the Oval Office the day we hung the works, in that it mimicked the lighting in Cobb’s Barn. With Hopper it is so much about the quality of light, and I think the early morning light at that moment echoed what we were seeing in the painting and I remember remarking upon that to Barbi Spieler, Head Registrar for the Permanent Collection, who was there as well. For obvious reasons we don’t often see Hopper paintings in natural light at the Museum.
When I saw the official White House photograph taken by Chuck Kennedy of The President standing in front of the two paintings, I thought it looked like a Hopper composition. Hopper’s urban scenes are often of a solitary figure caught in quiet contemplation, and that’s what the photograph captured. The light in the office and the sense of stillness are very Hopper-esque; the sun even seems to be coming into the office at the precise angle of the sun in the painting. And the back of The President recalls the back of the figure in Hopper’s most famous painting, Nighthawks. I’m guessing Chuck Kennedy knew exactly what he was doing. And of course, it was deeply gratifying to see an image of President Obama so intently focused on the paintings.
The paintings are of Cobb’s Barn in South Truro, Mass. — Cape Cod. Both Hoppers were like obsessed with Cobb’s Barn, here is Edward:
Far as I can tell Cobb’s Barn isn’t there anymore. Bit of a bummer, maybe they should put up a plaque or something.
That’s her painted by Robert Henri, who loved to paint babes:
Henri was, by this point, at the heart of the group who argued for the depiction of urban life at its toughest and most exuberant. Conservative tastes were necessarily affronted. About Henri’s Salome of 1909, critic Hughes observed: “Her long legs thrust out with strutting sexual arrogance and glint through the over-brushed back veil. It has far more oomph than hundreds of virginal, genteel muses, painted by American academics. He has given it urgency with slashing brush marks and strong tonal contrasts. He’s learned from Winslow Homer, from Édouard Manet, and from the vulgarity of Frans Hals”.
More Helytimes coverage about the Hoppers.
Now, what painting is in the Oval Office may seem meaningless but I gotta tell ya: I like living a country where the President is expected to have some taste and make some choices about putting some cool art on the wall.
Presidents have different art on the wall, but it means something to them. George W. Bush made a real point of having a bust of Churchill in there. Obama allegedly returned it, right? Ted Cruz definitely tells the whole truth about that?
New president, new art. We can all find American art we like, that’s a great thing about us. You can bet in the Reagan days they made choices about the art:
Looks like Reagan has The President’s House up there.
From the “Artwork” section of the Wiki page on Oval Office:
Most presidents have hung a portrait of George Washington – usually the Rembrandt Peale”Porthole” portrait or the Charles Willson Peale three-quarter-length portrait – over the mantel at the north end of the room. A portrait of Andrew Jackson by Thomas Sully hung in Lyndon Johnson’s office, and in Ronald Reagan’s, George H. W. Bush’s and Bill Clinton’s. A portrait of Abraham Lincoln by George Henry Story hung in George W. Bush’s office, and continues in Barack Obama’s. Three landscapes/cityscapes by minor artists – The City of Washington from Beyond the Navy Yard by George Cooke, Eastport and Passamaquoddy Bay by Victor de Grailly, and The President’s House, a copy after William Henry Bartlett – have adorned the walls in multiple administrations. The Avenue in the Rain by Childe Hassam and Statue of Liberty by Norman Rockwell flanked the Resolute Desk in Bill Clinton’s office, and do the same in Barack Obama’s.
What a slam! “minor artists”. The friggin’ President looks at your painting every day and you’re still minor. These art world guys are tough on each other, I tell ya.
Reader reaction is encouraging me in a White House kick. Be sure to weigh in to Helytimes if you know any facts about Oval Office art. Somebody out there knows what Bartlett had up.