A World of Art: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A World of Art: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

America is a land of great museums and every museum has spellbinding stories to tell the Met has under one roof absolutely every civilization every culture museum it's really a collection of collection you don't see a painting by you see a gallery full the permanent collection here is extraordinary walk a world of art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City next on great museums major funding for great museums is provided by the Eureka foundation dedicated to the educational power of television and new media exercise or curiosity explore America's great museums one of the architectural glories of New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art stretches 1,000 feet long 5th Avenue on Central Park the founders of the match we're talking about 1870 wanted a museum in which many representative examples of the great harlot world could be presented we've shown over the last 130 140 years that some of the great treasures of mankind could be acquired and are in fact here inside is a dazzling three-dimensional encyclopedia of world art overwhelming in the variety and outstanding quality of its collections you can walk in the door and literally work through the entire history of human creation from its earliest forms through through today you have to figure out your place in that in that universe of art in which direction he'll go vast galleries and storage vaults of the two million square foot museum overflow with more than 2 million objects some are grouped in visual narratives others celebrated on pedestals all invite our attention most people who are not very familiar with our collection are surprised to see so many famous familiar paintings key works in the history of art and here they are hanging on our walls there's something absolutely thrilling about seeing the work itself the running text is aah oh my goodness that's so pretty I didn't realize that was so rad that's a response that's good but I can say to all of you looking is when you come before a work of art if it doesn't immediately speak to you cause wait a now the work of art to yield its message over 3,000 years ago an Egyptian sculptor created this masterpiece in yellow Jasper it is so powerful so engaging even though it is a fragment clearly broken part of a larger sculpture look at those strong red lips that wonderful line underneath it the way that light hits the cheeks and the hollow of the cheek it's just one of the great works of Egyptian art on a great sculptures of any civilization curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art must decide for this day and age what makes a masterpiece well first there has to be skill but then you can have all the skill in the world and not be able to communicate the spiritual ones serenity chaos love innocence power desire remorse it's that fundamental human quality in the end that distinguishes a great master a great anything el Greco working in Spain some 400 years ago surely painted from the soul the expressive nature of El Greco's paintings ly the the exaggerated proportions of his figures and the soulful expression but the real magic to me is the poetry of the hands the Dutch master van Gogh poured his emotions onto the canvas the result was not accidental it was deliberate every single brush stroke has been applied with a very precise movement of the hand the American painter Thomas Eakins was exacting in his realist portraits of humanity that is a painting of great mathematical precision incredible perspective light color if you look deep into the distance you see Aikens himself in the distant boat works by some of the most celebrated painters in the history of art are in the Mets European collection here is Rubens portrait of the artist with his second wife and their then youngest child you can see his love for her and she is the embodiment of ideal beauty and all the things you see in the painting are all symbols of this love affair that brought forth this sort of second blooming in Rubens is life and was the inspiration of many of his finest works you're dealing with one of the greatest artists who ever lived the evidence is clear the Western painting tradition focused on figure color and paint in the east the Chinese masters celebrated the energy of the lion painting in China did not feel the need to use bright colors and that has to do with the tradition of calligraphy and valuing the quality of line one of the earliest paintings in the collection dates to the eighth century at the portrait of a horse by the renowned horse painter hangang in the lure of horses in China a great horse was like a dragon and this fiery spirit is I think what the artist was really trying to capture the same energy courses through all things they call it cheap whether it's the mountains and trees animals as human beings so for an artist to tap into that by spontaneously using his brush to capture his own energy somehow he imparts new life the pictorial image surrounding the borders of the paintings are the written comments and red seals of past owners so you have 1,200 years of history recorded as part of the object it adds it adds a sense of the linkage between the viewer who opens it today and all of these other people who've appreciated in the past at the heart of the Chinese collection is a scholars garden I think everybody loves this garden because you come in you have a sense of tranquility you've been transported to another world that is in essence what much of Chinese painting tries to achieve it's a mountain of the mind it's a landscape of the imagination and it's intended for the viewer to somehow lose himself or herself in this other world one can walk the world within the walls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art cone the continents of Asia America Africa come face to face with the art of Egypt Europe Greece and Rome what one sees at the Met is all of those civilizations represented under this one roof well you know the meds it's it's sort of an odd place because it grew up through topsy-turvy physically the spaces the building was sort of added to it's not a place where you get a linear view of anything behind the splendid fifth avenue BOS Arts facade beyond the majestic Great Hall between the brilliantly modern atrium wings is the Met of the 19th century the 1888 exterior now forms the interior wall of the Petrie European sculpture court and deep inside is the museum's first permanent home a Victorian Gothic structure opened in 1880 today its Cathedral like space houses part of the medieval collection much of its donated by the man who shaped the Mets collecting strategy a hundred years ago the powerful New York financier JP Morgan JP Morgan was an enormous to cultivated man passionate about works of art passionate about history died as people are fond to say almost a pauper because he invested almost his entire fortune in art he himself collected whole collections Morgan couldn't resist incredible finds this majestic Romanesque wooden sculpture of the Virgin and Child a 16th century Milanese parade helmet and this important work by Raphael painted in the early 1500s when the artist was barely 20 by the early 1900s Morgan was head of the museum's Board of Trustees he focused his wealth and vision on Egypt JP Morgan is responsible for the fact that the Metropolitan Museum has an Egyptian Department and morgan understood that the best way in the early 20th century of collecting Egyptian art was to excavate more than half of the Mets Egyptian collection of nearly 36,000 objects is derived from the museum's first 30 years of archaeological work in Egypt if you walk around the galleries you can go through all of Egyptian history you don't just see the great pieces that are the Kings you also get a feel for things that ordinary people would have had and it brings the culture closer to an individual viewer which i think is really important the mummy is one of the most potent symbols of ancient Egypt its purpose was to provide a safe haven for the spirit in the afterlife by preserving the body one of the most magical decorations on early coffins are the two eyes on the side we assume that the eyes allow the mummy to look out of the coffin later on you get anthropoid coffins they're sort of mummy form they have a face and in those the person is placed on it his back or her back and can look out through the face in the 1920s the Mets archeological team made a spectacular discovery in Thebes at the ancient tomb of a great noble named meketa all had been destroyed except one small hidden chamber untouched since maquette razuna roll four thousand years ago what they found inside were twelve little boxes with scenes inside bakers and brewers who are making food we have a stable where the people are forced feeding cattle preparing them for slaughter and we have the slaughterhouse in the afterlife maquette Roe would also need the service of this goddess and she is wearing a long that has a sort of feather pattern on it only goddesses usually wear feathered gowns all of the paint on that figure is just beautifully preserved people who walk in there think they're models while they are models but they were made in about 2000 BC so there are 4000 years old these monumental statues are of hatshepsut one of Egypt's few female Pharaohs at chef suit came to the throne as regent for her nephew tuck Moses the third about 20 years after her death tough Moses the third smashes all of her monuments eyes and noses even hole faces were hacked away for three thousand years the countless fragments lay scattered in a quarry until the Mets archaeologists stumbled upon them in the 1920s reassembling the pieces was painstaking because it's like putting a puzzle together without the photograph and you don't have enough pieces and some of the pieces weigh half a ton and some of them are as big as your fist the reassembled statues reveal hatshepsut in the appearance and attire of a male King and then we have the beautiful white statue which a lot of people say looks feminine and delicate which it does she's wearing the male kilt and she is wearing the nimmi's head cloth but for most people she looks like a more feminine image from the boy King Tut to the gargantuan roman-era temple of Dender a collection of ancient Egyptian art at the Metropolitan Museum ranks among the finest outside Cairo the museum some people say operates like nineteen little museums all in one it almost has to because it's such a big place big enough to house a grand equestrian court the Metropolitan museum's collection of arms armor is probably the most encyclopedic of any in the world that is we have over fourteen thousand objects that span about 1500 years and cover almost every major civilization of the world in Japan the counterpart of the knight in shining armor was the samurai warrior armed with his famous curved sword Japanese armor was made of small plates of leather or iron held together by silk laces it was form-fitting at the same time that boxy skirt around the base telescoped up around the rider on horseback and created a natural defense around his midsection this 14th century example is exceedingly rare it belonged to ashikaga takauji a leading general and shogun of japan a german master craftsman coin slot made this superb set of horse and body armor for the Duke of Saxony in the 1530s many of the objects here are show pieces the sculptural form the inherent beauty of the decoration the physical presence of the objects is overwhelming this field armor belonged to one of England's best-known kings and read the 8th the armor was made about 1544 when henry much married decided to with a last spurt of vigor go to war personally for the first time in over three decades he mounted a horse and rode off into battle this time to France taking with him thousands of English troops with the idea of capturing Paris his armor was brilliant his plan was not surprisingly plate armor was highly functional this is the gauntlet flying into a field armor of king philip ii of spain if you imagine a lobster and the articulation of its shell and how it moves that's very much the way that armor moves it's in miniature a masterpiece of both anatomical design function and decoration as in any aspect of the Metropolitan Museum a closer look is always the most convincing that we are indeed in the presence of great works the extraordinary timelessness of this place is very humbling it's humbling to be one of those people who hangs the works of art and makes the choices in the 19th century paintings were hung salon-style frame-to-frame floor-to-ceiling with the most important works at eye level in today's American salon take a turn and suddenly there it is Emanuel Leutze vision of Washington Crossing the Delaware it really does become the icon of the American Way it's shown again and again and again and reproduced probably more than any other picture in our collection a work of art in the gallery follows for a your average visitor what I like to call the precious object tradition that is it's in the Metropolitan Museum it's on a pedestal it's clean and shiny it's beautiful it must be a masterpiece you walk into the loose Center and we like to think that we've sort of thrown a wrench into that the Henry Luce Center for the Study of American art is a visible storage area the loose Center is interesting because it allows people up front right away to know the collection from which we're making our choices the range of objects is staggering an endless wall of empty picture frames statuary row after row of paintings of all kinds the cases are crowded with silver from all periods chairs of all styles tables clocks china shelves of Tiffany glass from one generation to the next from one curator the next with a different eye with a different bias what may be relegated to the ruse center for one curators pulled out and put in the primary galleries for another richly displayed in the American Way our master works by John Singer Sargent if you go back and forth between the Luce Center and the galleries you get a sense of the range in his work from student productions studies for murals all the way through finished society portraits the concept behind the lose center goes back to the whole notion of connoisseurship connoisseurship being the study of works of art comparatively in the primary galleries a comparison of 19th century landscape painting American style shows an evolving preoccupation with the effects of light and atmosphere note the opalescent sky and water and George Caleb Bingham spur traders descending the Missouri and the exciting contrast gloom and light in Martin Johnson heeds coming storm there are little narratives all over the American Way carefully placed objects meant to tell you some sort of story or to give you some bit of information in a gallery filled with Winslow homers later works his northeaster blows and bellows with raging energy nearby in a quiet corner John Hawkins river scene a masterwork of American Impressionism provides a safe harbor there is never a painting hung next to another without some consideration of what the two might say to each other repose by John Alexander white captures a carefree moment in which this language figure seems to float away she shares a gallery with this bold Beauty by Thomas anxious titled the rows and the rows although a small component a mere prop really becomes a personification of her doesn't it there are over 17,000 works in the Mets American art collection from colonial times through the early 20th century throughout the American wing two dozen period rooms provide context for the paintings sculpture and decorative arts on display in our field of American art we have the right to call ourselves the most comprehensive collection of American art in the world success for an art museum cannot be measured quantitatively it has to do with how deeply the museum is able to make an impact on its visitors in the Mets 19th century European collection many of the paintings mostly French are incomparable the corbeil will move the parrot it's a shocking painting curved A's handling of paint his depiction of flesh is sufficiently realistic as to cause very strong reactions on the part of yours today another woman with a parrot dwells nearby this one by core Bay's rival Edouard Manet almost certainly a satirical commentary on core Bay's nude of course 19th century Paris was also the center of the Impressionists universe the stories are as simple as walking through a hay field with poppies on a beautiful sunny day all you have to do is be human to recognize the pleasure in such an image at the Met there are water lilies by Monet sunflowers and cypresses by Van Gogh apples and primroses by Cezanne a parade of early works by Gauguin and Matisse and Renoir's stunning group portrait Madame Charpentier and her children in other words the most important collection of impressionist and post-impressionist painting in America key works came from the peerless private collection of a true art connoisseur who is een have a minor wife of the sugar baron h OU have a meyer luisina have Amaya became much a student of art in addition to simply a connector a master of objects as a teenager she visited Paris in 1874 where she met and befriended the American artist Mary Cassatt she became a devoted collector of Cassatt's work not merely for the companionship because she saw how beautiful the paintings were how great they would become in young world her sewing by Mary Cosette you see some of her most popular imagery the imagery that she's best known for that is the the subject of mothers and children she used friends and family in her compositions painting them quite quite beautifully and showing herself to be every bit the worthy colleague of the great French Impressionists guided by Cosette Lewis scene Havemeyer became one of the earliest collectors of Impressionism above all she favored Edgar Digga she wanted to have early works and late works she wanted to have finished paintings as well as in formal studies what she made was an exhaustive and comprehensive collection of his work which makes me believe that she fully understood his achievement and wanted to document it – dancers practicing at the bar is an example of de gAHS wit at play the fact that he included a watering can at the bottom left mimicking with its spout the angle of the dancers feet his cleverness in making a visual analogy an entire gallery at the Met is devoted to the Havemeyer collection of Degas bronze sculptures featuring his twin fascinations horses and ballerinas center stage in the heavy mire collection is Degas irresistible 14 year old dancer standing tall at 3 feet 3 inches all-in-all Liu is een Havemeyer collected the largest and most complete collection of de gAHS work ever form and all of this really for the Metropolitan I mean the Metropolitan was always in in her mind as the ultimate recipient of the collection Museum is really a collection of collections as a result we have sweeps of objects that really tell a story in a more complex and complete manner than if we were to buy a single example the Met is a vast storehouse of art knowledge and inspiration it's a place to return to over and over again to savor in small doses to lose yourself in thought or to immerse yourself in the wonders of human creativity once you become comfortable you'll discover again think the things that mean most to you you could indeed come back again and again and again over the years and learn something new every single time it is only a short walk from Jackson Pollock's autumn rhythm to the abstract elegance of Egyptian hieroglyphs from an indian goddess parvati tacticians Venus and Adonis from a bronze head by Picasso to a West African relic the met is in fact several museums in one nothing that's one of his great advantages because it means that you can make those wonderful comparisons opposition's contrasts it's all there and one is traveling the globe since its founding in 1870 the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has amassed a most impressive collection of art in the Western Hemisphere the Met has under one roof absolutely every civilization every culture for 5,000 years of recorded history and that is absolutely unique the aura that is conveyed is one of majesty walk into that Great Hall with its flowers and people and high ceilings and it's a monumental space and it speaks of the ages it is also dynamic constantly enriching its collections the permanent collection here is extraordinary you come here you don't see a painting by Ruben you see a gallery full you see early works and ladies you see the earliest and the latest you the visitor may say I don't see much in this well that may very well be there is no right and there is no wrong and what the art museum does is it awakens in the visitor it sends the critical evaluation in the 130 plus years of our history the mission the chartered bylaws museum has scarcely changed remains to acquire to preserve to publish and to make accessible the great art of the world in 1870 this Roman sarcophagus was the very first object to enter the collections of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art from there bloom the Mets magnificent Greek and Roman Department here the ancient Mediterranean world comes alive in bronze terracotta jewelry glass and marble the Joe Harris gallery paves the way is wonderful vaulted gallery are flooded with light we're from one moment of the day to the other the sculpture changes is the knight sculpt the sculptures and it was a timelessness of Greek art and Roman art which I think encourages us to look at them over and over again like the image on this terracotta vase attributed to the classical Greek painter you fro Gnaeus you fron is arguably the most noble and the most accomplished of the early bred figure painters the way the composition is framed by two standing figures the balance of the red the black and the beautiful use of ornaments the scene depicts the hero Sarpedon being carried from the battlefield by the personifications of sleep and death it is a noble grand scene the Greeks learned monumental sculpture for the most part from Egypt the ancient Egyptian influence on Greek sculpture is evident in the rigid pose of early male figures known as qu ROI which often marked graves and ours is one of the earliest to have survived in good condition and each generation shows the male figure in a more naturalistic portrayal by the fifth century BC Greek sculptors had perfected classical form here is the wounded warrior it's a bold composition figure in great action and yet we know that he's about to collapse most Greek sculptures survived today through marble copies made by Roman artists the Greek originals were bronze and were melted down or rusted away but the Romans were artists in their own right this row of portrait busts represents 300 years of Roman sculpture from the first century to the fourth you can in a way see that the old Gamlen of the Roman Empire on one fell swoop so powerful is the classical tradition of Greece and Rome that for more than 2,000 years it has defined the Western view of beauty this great 19th century work by Antonio Canova shows Perseus son of Zeus holding the head of Medusa whose gaze could turn mortals to stone the Perseus is one of the great sculptures the new Classical period both in terms of its artistry purity of line and I think it holds a position of great honor and Majesty in the middle of that court Perseus is male body beautiful from the Western point of view here is the Asian Indian ideal of female perfection the shapely figure of the celestial dancing devata is beautiful though her contorted pose is utterly fantastic ancient Indian sculpture from the area now known as Pakistan reflects the definite influence of the West most likely the results of Alexander the Great's conquests or first century trade with Rome in striking contrast is the pure Indian aesthetic developed around the fifth century during India's Classical Age the Gupta period the Gupta period is a period of transformation where finally Indian art really comes into its own this Gupta Buddha is one of the great icons of Indian art the nose like a parrot's beak the eyebrows like an archers bow the folds of the robe although you sense the body beneath there's also the sense of this dematerialization that's going on in front of you the unique artistic vocabulary of literary metaphors is fully realized in this superb bronze of the hindu goddess parvati in this case you'll notice the extremely narrow waist which is likened to a damaru a kind of an Indian drum that's that is hourglass shaped the breasts are like ripe melon the head is like an egg the left arm is like an elephant's trunk there's almost no sign of the elbow not all sculpture at the Met is metal or stone these three-dimensional treasures were sculpted from cloth in the Mets Costume Institute conservators care for a collection of clothing that spans seven centuries and five continents what we do here is interpret of these objects as our this is really really typical of the 18th century where the interior the Mets costume art collection contains nearly 80,000 individual pieces from fashionable dress and regional clothing to shoes undergarments and even buttons and people are always really shocked because of the size but at this time men's buttons were enormous and they're really a large decorative element on a tailcoat this row of eighteenth-century court dresses is ready for inspection and conservation this fabric alone was very very closely you can see all the gold and the silver in the 18th century there was a spectacular manifestation of women's dress called the panty 8 gown we have an English Court gown with the most extraordinary of elbow shaped panties they stick straight out out of the side of the waist and drop straight down on either side the Costume Institute at the Met seeks out master works of clothing and design that advance the art of fashion but that doesn't mean to say that we don't also enjoy hearing someone say I would never wear that or I would love to wear built on the shoulders of capitalism the Metropolitan Museum of Art owes many of its treasures to the enormous wealth and generosity of America's captains of business and industry and many of them in fact formed their collections with the Metropolitan in mind financial giant Robert leamon spent a lifetime assembling what would become one of the greatest private collections of the 20th century Robert leamon and his father Philips we're collectors on a very grand scale and its collection which stands on its own in its own wing at the Met the Lehmann collection is uniquely displayed in rooms that evoke the setting of a private home you can put yourself in any of the armchairs in liman wing stay there as long as you please and imagine that you too have an El Greco over the fireplace there are very few categories of art that are left out of the Lehmann collection Lehman's personal favorite was this portrait by the 19th century French artist hang the ank portrait of the priceless debris is widely considered one of the most beautiful paintings in the world all the textures and details portrayed with such brilliant accuracy as to leave almost nothing to the imagination but in the most positive possible sense Lehman's real passion was art by the italian painters of the early renaissance preeminent among them Botticelli early Italian artists were restrained not only by their subject matter religion but also by their medium they paid it mostly on wood with tempera a mixture of pigment water and egg yolk but superior skills and fertile imaginations triumphed over the limitations of the paint and surface here Giovanni DePaulo depicts two scenes from the 15th century view of the universe the creation and the expulsion in the center of the painting is a small disc which represents earth around earth are the spheres of the four elements and the known planets and God the Father on a cloud of angels floats in from the left and sets all the spheres in motion which will initiate the cycle of creation painted barely five years later but a world away the detailed sophistication of this painting by Flemish artist Petrus Christus was due in part to the recent invention of oil paint which would revolutionize the Western art world titled st. Eligius the patron saint of Goldsmith's it shows a young couple come to seek a wedding ring a mirror reflects to on lookers outside behind the goldsmith our rings coral crystal cups gold work the sort of thing that you would find in Tiffany's five hundred years ago of the Dutch and Flemish I would say that there is much more emphasis upon rendering the surfaces the the material has about it a kind of heightened realism perhaps the most inspired early practitioner of painting with oils was Yann Van Eyck his crucifixion and Last Judgement hang in the Mets comprehensive European painting department in his hands painting in oil is raised to perfection and with oil glazes he's able to describe with his brush unbelievable details the rural life is the subject of Pieter Bruegel's masterpiece the harvesters the artist is no longer using a religious subject to show a landscape these are working people peasants who have been taking a break for their noonday meal and some of my fall asleep and you can see them stretched out on the hay and extraordinary details throughout the entire picture the 17th century was the Golden Age of Dutch and Flemish painting the period of the old masters the Met has rooms filled with Rembrandt Rubens and the rarest of all Vermeer if you come to the Met you don't see one Vermeer you see five it's extraordinary you see one of the earliest known works and you see a very characteristic label and then you see a one of the greatest of all which is the woman with the silver jug he's able in the small canvas to describe this entire world centered around this woman as she's doing her household chores in this beautiful light that illuminates the scene the miracle of oil spread throughout Europe from Titian and Raphael in Italy della tour and Posada in France to diego velázquez in spain every painter who's lived admires the way he handled a brush while in Rome Velasquez painted his Moorish servant as a warm-up exercise for a planned portrait of the Pope he's actually stroking the canvas with the brush he's not using even a palette in order to mix the colors he mixed the colors directly on the canvas next to where the mantle of master in Spain was Court painter Francisco Goya the child looks out kind of innocently there is evil in the painting you can see in the shadows these sinister eyes of these cats that want to jump on the on the birds and eat them by the 18th century the practice of oil painting had been nearly universal for 100 years but artists working in America had some catching up to do in colonial times John Singleton Copley America's first significant native-born artist successfully modeled his likenesses of America's elite after works by English masters despite his lack of formal training the only thing about this picture that is unique to mrs. Bowers is the face we know that her dress her dog her sofa her landscape even her hairdo and her jewelry come from a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds of Lady Caroline Russell and Copley understood his colonial patrons wanted to keep up with fashion ability of their London neighbors until the 19th century most American painters either weren't Americans by birth or they trained in Europe which means that the works that they painted upon their return are necessarily international in flavor this would include the great portrait of George Washington by Charles Wilson Peale who studied in London prior to fighting in the Revolutionary War and this familiar image by Gilbert Stuart by the time he was a teenager he had left for England and didn't come back for 20 years he returned in 1793 to paint the nation's founding father and greatest hero American Thomas Sully aimed to paint true royalty Queen Victoria this small canvas is the oil study that Sully carried back and forth to Buckingham Palace for his sittings with the Queen beside it hangs the finished masterpiece Sully was the first American painter to portray Queen Victoria he found her so delightful and charming that he wrote in his diary that he he hoped that he could give us the the kind manner and dignity of the young Queen born in England but long resident in Philadelphia sully worked three of the conventions that tied English court painters this isn't to say that he painted a rakish image but the idea that Queen Victoria would be literally ascending the throne climbing the staircase up to the throne and looking back over her bare shoulder is really extraordinary the best of late 19th century American portraiture tends to be something more than straightforward likenesses even realist Thomas Eakins seems to paint psychological profiles this portrait of his wife was reworked to increase the pathos of her expression the master of American portraiture was John Singer Sargent his provocative painting madam x is the anchor work in a gallery devoted to images of society folk what's such a stunningly beautiful and striking image just like the woman was herself the woman was Madame Gautreaux the New Orleans born wife of a French banker she became one of the most notorious beauties of Paris in the 1880s the short version of the story is that when Sargent painted at the shoulder strap of the dress that she's wearing was falling down off one arm and that and itself created such a degree of attention that he was asked to fix the strap to put it back on her shoulder when sergeant sold Madame X to the Met in 1916 he supposed it was the best work he'd ever done initially scorned by the establishment the impressionist painters of the late 19th century are now universally admired as the first true expressions of the modern spirit the Annenberg collection at the Met boasts over 50 impressionist and early modern masterpieces Renoir van Gogh began Braque and this early self-portrait by Picasso the collection was built with the fortune made by publishing magnate Walter Annenberg creator of TV Guide by the time the Anna Birds began collecting in earnest in the 1960s and 70s these artists were very famous very expensive artists the annenberg contributed more than a half dozen of Van Gogh's works to the museum in the 1990s complementing other paintings by Van Gogh already in the Mets permanent collection a visitor here can come across the rather rude beginnings of Van Gogh's art that earnest self-taught struggling artist who became ultimately a consummate technician the crowning glory came in 1993 when Walter Annenberg and his wife Lea acquired wheat field with cypresses for the met it's one of the great paintings of the 19th century it's one of the sublime works of Van Gogh the strong colors the artists touch the impasto you can see the visible traces of the artists work left on the canvas grains of seed that were literally blowing in the wind that day so fresh was the paint and so fervid was his painting manner that these seeds were embedded in the paint surface this was a picture also from the point of view of Van Gogh's own career that emerged out one of the darkest moments of his life in 1889 he summarizes his own discovery of the importance of Cyprus it's symbolism representing death the Cypress appearing in all of the cemeteries France and also that soaring shape leading to the skies and to heaven the great masters of any time or place strive not to copy but to create their own unique visions which is why there will always be something called modern art at the Met modern art begins with the 20th century a stroll through the galleries reveals an astonishing diversity of creative expression given to the human form Modigliani Miro Picasso early twentieth-century modernists pursuing cubism and Fauvism were intrigued by the unfamiliar ways in which primitive cultures depicted the human form the influence of African masks is evident in this bronze by picasso african masks made to propitiate the gods have a tremendous power but they are also harbingers of some of the best abstract art created in the West which is why people like Park can because so connected African mats this finely carved ivory mask is from the 16th century West African kingdom of Benin it's believed to portray the mother of the Oba or ruler we basically in this museum see to include the art of the entire world and the arts of Africa Oceania and the Americas represent a very significant portion of that art and this actually includes most of the arts and cultures of the world our holdings in the arts of Africa Oceania and Mesoamerica opened the eye to the ineluctable fact that it is in a nature of man to want to express themselves even in the most ordinary objects in in an aesthetic way in the early 20th century these objects were regarded as ethnographic material better suited for a Natural History Museum but New York politician Nelson Rockefeller saw them as art as did his son Michael and Michael was very enthusiastic about his father's passion for art particularly art from the Pacific and so after he graduated from college he decided that he was going to go personally to New Guinea which he did it ultimately cost him his life reportedly in 1961 he tried to swim ashore when the motor on his boat failed his body was never found the Michael C rockefeller wing at the Met opened in 1982 some of the most striking pieces were collected by Michael himself Michael spent some time in the highlands of New Guinea but he spent the majority of his time down with the Asmat people the Asmat people are prolific and accomplished wood carvers they are also headhunters the towering beach poles form one of the most dramatic displays I think in the entire museum the figure at the top represents an Asmat warrior recently killed in battle each pole is carved from a single upside-down tree while the top of the tree points to the ground the remaining root representing the phallus of the pole is fashioned into a projecting wing with intricate carvings of enemies killed by the warrior so in a way the carvings can be said to represent a resume in Oceania there are 1200 different cultures and languages and hundreds of religions and artistic traditions a common practice in oceanic cultures was ancestor worship now these may be fantastic creatures but the people who create them these are what these beings look like from the polynesian islands this giant slit gong is basically a musical instrument a wide hollowed-out tree trunk forms the body of the ancestor Hara surrounds the face with its large plate like eyes and a long slit mouth down the front there was often a special carver who made only the nose one of the things that I always asked myself was why would somebody make an image like this the questions like the world of art itself are never-ending the Metropolitan Museum of Art's mission requires that it remain a work-in-progress no Museum in the world stops connecting no matter how much you have there are always gaps one never has so complete a picture that you can simply close the book will never know everything that of course is the joy of scholarship there's always something else and to know that's the wonder of works of art their unfathomable you cannot complete them you cannot complete them learn more about America's great museums at great museums org you can order this episode or another great museums program call one eight eight eight two two seven five eight six five or order online at great museums org museums hold the treasures and tell the tales of the people and places that make America great major funding for great museums is provided by the Eureka foundation dedicated to the educational power of television and new media exercise your curiosity explore America's great museums

48 thoughts on “A World of Art: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

  1. Jp Morgan, a capitalist and Republican, did more for the MET than all people combined period! Vote Republican! Vote Trump!

  2. I was lucky to go there, I was fascinated and dumbstruck by the art and collection. America is the greatest nation on earth. My head bows down to this great country.

  3. What's interesting is that it seems with the sculpted figures, their noses are always broken – why is that?


  5. It is odd to think that in the past people could go to foreign countries and just dig up and take anything they wanted then take then back to their countries and display them as their property. I know and am aware that many of these countries did not value their past and many statues were broken up and used for building and bones and mummies broken up and used either for medicinal purposes or fertiliser and metals melted down and traded.

  6. I do wish that curators and historians etc would learn to pronounce Van Gogh, it is so NOT VAN GO !

  7. Just coming back from there today. It's even more splendid than The British museum! My dream came true to have a look at Chinese Garden and the artwork of Vincent Van Gol.

  8. This museum, and the AMNH across Central Park, are the 2 destinations any visitor to NYC must go to. You can easily spend an entire week and not see everything in those 2 museums.

  9. You're the ones mocking God's Church right now, in terms too obscene to describe. Tell me straight, then, when you sold your souls, and how it is you think you'll get out of it when the devil comes to collect? I forgive you personally, but it's not me you're mocking. You're mocking God and the Virgin Mary. You're mocking God's Mother. What do you think Jesus will do to protect His Mother's dignity? You had better repent and pray that God does not "give the devil his due", because as of right now, you ARE that due.

  10. Thanks for sharing this great look at this museum's collection, I would now dearly like to visit whereas I previously has dismissed it as a low priority.

  11. Tengo 2 pinturas interesantes una es del siglo 1 o 2 y la otra es la reina Isabel la católica me interesa donarlas pero también quiero rreconpensa se están dañando ocupan clima espesial mi numero de del 3111251572 solo museo tepic nayarit México

  12. I wish I would sell a panting there and earn money and buy an iPhone, new hp laptop, new 8 seat 180mph car, and a new house in hale street in Glenn brook, CT and five upper is fixing my house

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