The notion that a picture is worth a thousand words is meant to convey the power of imagery. But what of the power of words—if they are personal interpretations of art that mix fact and fiction such as Giorgio Vasari’s Lives, or the writings of Dante and Shakespeare that inspired Auguste Rodin, or Émile Zola’s written defense of his great friend Édouard Manet’s work and the portrait it inspired.
Explore the alchemy that occurs at the intersection of art and literature in this fascinating Sunday afternoon series with David Gariff, senior lecturer at the National Gallery of Art.
Please Note: Individual sessions are available for purchase.
June 25 Walker Evans and James Agee
In 1936, photographer Walker Evans (1903–1975) took a leave of absence from the Farm Security Administration to accept a summer assignment with Fortune magazine. Evans and the writer James Agee (1909–1955) spent several weeks among sharecropper families in Hale County, Alabama. The article they produced documented in words and images the lives of poor Southern farmers afflicted by the Great Depression. Their story was published in book form as Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, now recognized as a masterpiece of the art of photojournalism.
July 23 William Blake: Poet and Painter
William Blake (1757–1827) one of the most prolific artists and poets of the Romantic period, united the two sister arts—painting and poetry—most effectively in his “illuminated books.” Blake’s books represented the marriage of painting and poetry through carefully etched poems and accompanying images. In both his visual and literary works, Blake explored contrasting states—innocence vs. experience, the rational mind vs. imagination, good vs. evil. Although Blake frequently turned to the Christian Bible for inspiration, his poetry and works of art reflect his own personal visions.
August 27 Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein
Pablo Picasso’s relationship with Gertrude Stein was multifaceted—she was a patron, artistic subject, and correspondent. Stein’s early patronage and friendship was critical to Picasso’s success. He began his portrait of Stein the year they met in 1905. Stein claimed to have sat for him more than 90 times. Though Stein never put brush to canvas, in poems like “If I Told Him, A Completed Portrait of Picasso” she attempts to transform the page into a spatial art devoid of the logic and narrative that a reader uses to make sense of a work. In her turn away from linear narrative and toward a non-hierarchical method of poetry, Stein mirrors Picasso’s earlier move from linear perspective towards flat surfaces.
World Art History Certificate electives: Earn 1/2 credit per session*
*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit per session of this series. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.