Telling American Stories

In anticipation of American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915, I interviewed Bruce Robertson, guest curator and co-organizer of the exhibition. Among other things, Bruce talked about the painting Watson and the Shark that appears in the first gallery. Bruce emphasizes the ambiguity of the painting, the way you can interpret it this way or that way. Listen to what he has to say, below:

John Singleton Copley, Watson and the Shark, 1778, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ferdinand Belin Fund (1963.6.1), image courtesy of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

There’s so much to be said about this painting (watch for more in upcoming posts), and it supports a premise of the show: that these paintings are open to myriad interpretations that depend on the viewer. Bruce put it this way:

Next week, I’ll also share some entertaining and insightful comments from a group of kids about what they see in the painting Cliff Dwellers, by George Bellows—a favorite from LACMA’s collection that appears toward the end of American Stories.

Amy Heibel

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