Le verre de porto (A Dinner Table at Night)

Le verre de porto (A Dinner Table at Night) by John Singer Sargent

Do the colors in this scene evoke particular emotions?

This intimate scene featuring Albert and Edith Vickers takes place in the dining room of a country house in England. Sargent’s composition weds the informal portraiture of the conversation piece to the techniques of Impressionism. Mrs. Vickers occupies the center of the painting and looks directly at the viewer. Her hand rests on a glass of claret, while Mr. Vickers crosses his legs as he puffs on an after-dinner cigar, imparting a casual freshness to the scene.

Tulip Culture

Tulip Culture by George Hitchcock

Where do you find “symphonies of colors” in nature?

In 1883 the American painter Hitchcock settled in the Netherlands, making his home near Egmond aan Zee, which he helped transform into a significant artists’ colony. Inspired by the “symphonies of color” he found in the Dutch landscape, Hitchcock later published a series of articles titled “The Picturesque Quality of Holland,” in which he praised “the mysterious, endless fields . . . the opulence of tone and color; the unity and mystery of the vast meadows.”

Mother and Child

Mother and Child by John Henry Twachtman

What does this painting reveal about motherhood?

A founding member of The Ten, Twachtman was one of the foremost American Impressionists of his era. In this highly personal domestic scene, the artist’s wife, Martha, holds their baby up to a mirror. She lovingly watches her child as he studies his reflection, though it is unclear whether he will react with pleasure or surprise. The painting also features another artwork hanging behind Martha on the right side of the canvas, locating this scene in the artist’s home.

Portrait of Miss D.

Portrait of Miss D. by William Merritt Chase

What questions does this portrait ask?

The subject of this elegant full-length portrait is Alice Dieudonnée, Chase’s oldest child with his wife, Alice Bremond Gerson. Chase often used family and friends as models for his paintings, and his wife and children were often recognized in public as the subjects in his work. As Alice grew older, she gradually replaced her mother and namesake as a favorite model, perhaps in part because she increasingly resembled her mother at the age she met the artist.

Outdoor Stage, France

Outdoor Stage, France by Everett Shinn

Do any art forms have universal appeal?

Vaudeville theaters functioned not just as playhouses but as social venues where people of all kinds came to mix and mingle. Shinn was particularly stagestruck by this environment, producing dozens of drawings, pastels, and paintings of American and European theatrical performances and the people who attended them. This work was inspired by sketches Shinn made in Paris, combining elements of the American vaudeville experience with French entertainment.

George Washington

George Washington by Rembrandt Peale, after Gilbert Charles Stuart

What makes this image of George Washington iconic?

In 1854 Peale first delivered his lecture “Washington and His Portraits” at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The following year, he wrote, “[I] feel my Vocation is to multiply the Countenance of Washington.” Peale sought to become the foremost expert and delineator of Washington’s image, and he traveled to Boston in order to make a copy of the famous Stuart portrait. Peale’s lectures, which became incredibly popular, featured his own copies of Washington portraits by other artists.

George Washington on a White Charger

George Washington on a White Charger by Unidentified artist

What makes an American hero?

This painting of George Washington (1732–1799) on horseback was found in the small town of Bernardston, Massachusetts. Painted on four attached boards, this work may have been produced by a self-taught artist a few decades after Washington's death. The popularity of Washington's image in American folk art testifies to his place in the national imagination. Whether portrayed as a military leader on horseback or as a thoughtful chief executive, many Americans associate the life of our first President with the founding myths of our nation.

St. Matthew and the Angel

St. Matthew and the Angel by Unidentified artist

What would you choose as your personal symbol?

In this work by an unknown artist, Saint Matthew is shown seated on a rock, writing his gospel in the presence of an angel. Traditionally, each of the four Gospel writers is associated with a symbol: Saint Mark, a winged lion; Saint Luke, a winged ox; Saint John, an eagle; and Saint Matthew, an angel, which became his traditional symbol because the first story in his gospel describes how Saint Joseph saw an angel in a dream. In the New Testament of the Bible, Matthew 18:10 is also sometimes interpreted as evidence of guardian angels.

A Window on History by George

A Window on History by George by William T. Wiley, William Allan, Robert Hudson

Have you ever created art with friends?

This ambitious collaborative work is a panoramic landscape that is equal parts representational and abstract. The painting is divided vertically and horizontally into map- or grid-like geometric sections that resemble the disjunctive crosscuts of cinema, collage, or cartoons. Given the collaborative nature of this work, it also recalls the Surrealist drawing game known as “the exquisite corpse,” in which artists take turns making marks on a single piece of paper.