Where: National Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum
When: through July 9, 2017
I saw two exhibits in one trip this week. They were small and in the same building, which helps.
The first was Hiram Powers' The Greek Slave. This was the most famous sculpture of the 19th century, and its full nudity meant that, in some venues where it was shown, men and women had to view it separately. Some claimed that the statue was not indecent, as it was "clothed all over with sentiment." Yeesh. SAAM allows everyone in at the same time, and it doesn't seem to be a problem.
There was an X-ray of the statue on view, which I always find interesting - what's going on beneath the surface? Not as surprising as the Rodin dancer X-ray I saw at the National Gallery a while back, but still a treat to see.
Powers received several patents for the tools he used in his artistic work, so that tied in neatly with the building's past identity as the home of the Patent and Trademark Office.
On display was the plaster model of the statue; there were several marble replicas made for private patrons - wonder where those are now? Minton & Company made small porcelain replicas that were sold as souvenirs and are now collected in their own right. There is a human desire to own great art, even if it's just a little copy.
On my way out, I stopped by the "Celebrate" wall, where a portrait of John F. Kennedy is on display. It's the centenary of his birth, and there are any number of Kennedy-themed shows up, so watch this space for further reports. This is a pastel on paper by Shirley Seltzer Cooper from 1961; he looks both young and serious.
Verdict: Both of these are worth seeing; don't leave the JFK portrait too long, you know how those "Celebrate" works will go down in a moment if that space needs to become the "In Memoriam" wall.