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National Gallery of Art: Cultural Activity Report

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Updated: May 12th, 2021

On Sunday, August 28th, 2016, I visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. In the museum, I had the pleasure of observing countless pictures and paintings within the many exhibitions of the museum. The following are the two pieces of art from Alexander Calder and Gerrit van Honthorst’s exhibitions that I enjoyed the most and, therefore, chose to discuss.

The Concert

The first piece of art that will be discussed in the paper is the painting by Gerrit van Honthorst—The Concert. It was exhibited on the main floor of the West Building of the museum and instantly caught my attention. The six-foot-wide painting portrays a gathering of musicians around a table. It seems that dramatic postures and gestures of figures carve across the canvas, separating it into the patchwork of colorful spots (National Gallery of Art, 2016b). The stark contrast of light and dark suffuses the painting with an almost religious sense of mystery that reveals itself before the viewer’s eye. There is no doubt that The Concert tells a story of a secretive and almost unseen act— the act of music creation. To underscore the private nature of the event, Gerrit van Honthorst puts the figure of the young man with a finger covering his mouth. The meaning of the gesture is universal: be quiet. Moreover, there is a pressing reason to keep silent – a virtuous moment of creation of the high art of music requires calm contemplation. The musicians in colorful clothes engulfed by a fleeting moment of dynamic work encapsulate the beauty of Gerrit van Honthorst’s genius.

Untitled

Another piece of art that caught my attention was exhibited in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art on the ground level. It is a moving sculpture produced by Alexander Calder in 1976 (National Gallery of Art, 2016a). The gigantic structure that hangs from the ceiling seems to invite a viewer to come up with the title for it. The unique engineering talent of Calder allowed him to design a massive sculpture that would move effortlessly while being suspended in the air. Although it weighs an impressive 920 pounds, its wingspan is only eighty-five feet (National Gallery of Art, 2016a). Sculptors originally intended his work to have moving parts that would change their physical location with the help of a motor. However, the use of lightweight materials allowed him to achieve the same effect with the air currents. The mobile sculpture is a complex, intricate mixture of engineering talent and artistic vision. The whimsical S-shaped creature is a great testament to Calder’s romance with the genre of modernism. Moreover, the way he manipulated the emotions of a viewer through the expression of the form suggests that the artist had the powerful ability to entertain.

It is obvious that Calder drew inspiration from nature for his sculpture not only for the representation of visual forms but also to propel it in the way natural surroundings help flora move. A closer examination allows the attentive viewer to discern many organic patterns in Calder’s work: rose petals, shark fins, and fish scales, among others.

Conclusion

I enjoyed both exhibitions immensely and felt that the works of both Gerrit van Honthorst and Alexander Calder are related to each other. The two pieces of art can be viewed as the windows in the moment of birth: the creation of music and the birth of a flower.

References

National Gallery of Art. (2016a). Alexander Calder. Web.

National Gallery of Art. (2016b). Gerrit van Honthorst. The Concert. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "National Gallery of Art: Cultural Activity." May 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/national-gallery-of-art-cultural-activity/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'National Gallery of Art: Cultural Activity'. 12 May.

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