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Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

15 Handwritten Letters From Famous Artists

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Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Visual artists are known for their art, not their handwriting, but their penmanship can offer serious insight into the person behind the words. Pen to Paper: Artists’ Handwritten Letters from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art by Mary Savig is proof of that. The book is a collection of handwritten letters from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. It features dispatches from over 50 well-known American artists, from Alexander Calder to Georgia O’Keeffe, along with transcriptions, additional images and artwork, commentary and analysis on what we might be able to glean from their writing style.

You can see a few of the letters below (all images courtesy of Pen to Paper, and the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art), and purchase the anthology from Princeton Architectural Press here or Amazon here.

1. MARY CASSATT TO JOHN WESLEY BEATTY, SEPTEMBER 5, 1905

2. GEORGE CATLIN TO D. S. GREGORY, JULY 19 — AUGUST 21, 1834

3. JOSEPH CORNELL, DRAFTS OF LETTER TO TEENY DUCHAMP, OCTOBER 8 AND 9, 1968

4. WILLEM DE KOONING TO MICHAEL LOEW, MARCH 28, 1966

5. DAN FLAVIN TO ELLEN H. JOHNSON, JANUARY 22, 1979

6. MARTIN JOHNSON HEADE TO FREDERIC EDWIN CHURCH, APRIL 27, MAY 6, JUNE 16, 1868

7. WINSLOW HOMER TO THOMAS B. CLARKE, JANUARY 4, 1901

8. RAY JOHNSON TO EVA LEE, SEPTEMBER 15, 1969

9. CORITA KENT TO BEN SHAHN, CIRCA 1960

10. LEE KRASNER TO JACKSON POLLOCK, JULY 21, 1956

11. CLAES OLDENBURG TO ELLEN H. JOHNSON, AUGUST 17, 1974

12. EERO SAARINEN TO ALINE SAARINEN, 1953

13. LENORE TAWNEY TO MARYETTE CHARLTON, FEBRUARY 15, 1969

14. JAMES MCNEILL WHISTLER TO FREDERICK H. ALLEN, JUNE 6, 1893

15. GRANT WOOD TO ZENOBIA NESS, OCTOBER 28, 1930

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Ape Meets Girl
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Pop Culture
Epic Gremlins Poster Contains More Than 80 References to Classic Movies
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Ape Meets Girl

It’s easy to see why Gremlins (1984) appeals to movie nerds. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Chris Columbus, the film has horror, humor, and awesome 1980s special effects that strike a balance between campy and creepy. Perhaps it’s the movie’s status as a pop culture treasure that inspired artist Kevin Wilson to make it the center of his epic hidden-image puzzle of movie references.

According to io9, Wilson, who works under the pseudonym Ape Meets Girl, has hidden 84 nods to different movies in this Gremlins poster. The scene is taken from the movie’s opening, when Randall enters a shop in Chinatown looking for a gift for his son and leaves with a mysterious creature. Like in the film, Mr. Wing’s shop in the poster is filled with mysterious artifacts, but look closely and you’ll find some objects that look familiar. Tucked onto the bottom shelf is a Chucky doll from Child’s Play (1988); above Randall’s head is a plank of wood from the Orca ship made famous by Jaws (1975); behind Mr. Wing’s counter, which is draped with a rug from The Shining’s (1980) Overlook Hotel, is the painting of Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters II (1989). The poster was released by the Hero Complex Gallery at New York Comic Con earlier this month.

“Early on, myself and HCG had talked about having a few '80s Easter Eggs, but as we started making a list it got longer and longer,” Wilson told Mental Floss. “It soon expanded from '80s to any prop or McGuffin that would fit the curio shop setting. I had to stop somewhere so I stopped at 84, the year Gremlins was released. Since then I’ve thought of dozens more I wish I’d included.”

The ambitious artwork has already sold out, but fortunately cinema buffs can take as much time as they like scouring the poster from their computers. Once you think you’ve found all the references you can possibly find, you can check out Wilson’s key below to see what you missed (and yes, he already knows No. 1 should be Clash of the Titans [1981], not Jason and the Argonauts [1963]). For more pop culture-inspired art, follow Ape Meets Girl on Facebook and Instagram.

Key for hidden image puzzle.
Ape Meets Girl

[h/t io9]

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Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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presidents
Barack Obama Taps Kehinde Wiley to Paint His Official Presidential Portrait
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Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Kehinde Wiley, an American artist known for his grand portraits of African-American subjects, has painted Michael Jackson, Ice-T, and The Notorious B.I.G. in his work. Now the artist will have the honor of adding Barack Obama to that list. According to the Smithsonian, the former president has selected Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait, which will hang in the National Portrait Gallery.

Wiley’s portraits typically depict black people in powerful poses. Sometimes he models his work after classic paintings, as was the case with "Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps.” The subjects are often dressed in hip-hop-style clothing and placed against decorative backdrops.

Portrait by Kehinde Wiley
"Le Roi a la Chasse"
Kehinde Wiley, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Smithsonian also announced that Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald has been chosen by former first lady Michelle Obama to paint her portrait for the gallery. Like Wiley, Sherald uses her work to challenge stereotypes of African-Americans in art.

“The Portrait Gallery is absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have agreed to create the official portraits of our former president and first lady,” Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a press release. “Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century.”

The tradition of the president and first lady posing for portraits for the National Portrait Gallery dates back to George H.W. Bush. Both Wiley’s and Sherald’s pieces will be revealed in early 2018 as permanent additions to the gallery in Washington, D.C.

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