Articles by Stanley Meisler

Kofi Annan, U.N. secretary general and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, dies at 80

Kofi Annan, U.N. secretary general and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, dies at 80

Kofi Annan, U.N. secretary general and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, dies at 80

Kofi Annan, U.N. secretary general and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, dies at 80

Kofi Annan, U.N. secretary general and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, dies at 80

August 18, 2018
August 2018
Kofi Annan, U.N. secretary general and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, dies at 80
Kofi Annan of Ghana, whose popular and influential reign as secretary general of the United Nations was marred by White House anger at his opposition to the American invasion of Iraq in the early 2000s, died Aug. 18 at a hospital in Bern, Switzerland. He was 80. The death was announced by the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation. The cause was not immediately disclosed. Current U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called Mr. Annan “a guiding force for good,” and added: “He provided people everywhere with a space for dialogue, a place for problem-solving and a path to a better world.” Mr. Annan, who pronounced his last name ANN-un to rhyme with “cannon,” shared the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize with the international body he led from 1997 to 2006. He owed his original triumph and his later turmoil to tense relations with the United States, but in some ways, he was an accidental secretary general...

Restoring the portrait of an artist: How a new exhibition is giving William Merritt Chase his due

Restoring the portrait of an artist: How a new exhibition is giving William Merritt Chase his due

Restoring the portrait of an artist: How a new exhibition is giving William Merritt Chase his due

Restoring the portrait of an artist: How a new exhibition is giving William Merritt Chase his due

Restoring the portrait of an artist: How a new exhibition is giving William Merritt Chase his due

June 23, 2016
June 2016
Restoring the portrait of an artist: How a new exhibition is giving William Merritt Chase his due
Reputations can fall swiftly in the world of art, sometimes in mysterious ways. But few have fallen so far and remained so hidden as William Merritt Chase. Art historian John Davis reports that in the 1880s, when Chase was just in his 30s, “he had come to dominate the American art scene.” Many Americans hailed him as their finest artist. Many Europeans agreed. But in the last hundred years since his death, almost all this adulation has dissipated. He is no longer a household name. Americans who know something about his contemporaries and friends James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent usually know nothing about William Merritt Chase. Patrons rarely rush to museums to see a Chase. Yet while the general public lost interest in Chase, the artist did keep special admirers...

Gustave Caillebotte's role in Impressionist history illuminated in 'Painter's Eye'

Gustave Caillebotte's role in Impressionist history illuminated in 'Painter's Eye'

Gustave Caillebotte's role in Impressionist history illuminated in 'Painter's Eye'

Gustave Caillebotte's role in Impressionist history illuminated in 'Painter's Eye'

Gustave Caillebotte's role in Impressionist history illuminated in 'Painter's Eye'

July 10, 2015
July 2015
Gustave Caillebotte's role in Impressionist history illuminated in 'Painter's Eye'
In the late 19th century, everyone looked on Gustave Caillebotte as a leading painter of the Impressionists. He took part in five of the eight exhibitions that the Impressionists mounted. In fact, he organized and helped finance several of the shows. One displayed more than 25 of his paintings; another greeted visitors in the opening room with his stunning depictions of the new Paris. Caillebotte, a wealthy man, also purchased many paintings by his colleagues. He continually loaned money to an impoverished Claude Monet and paid the rent for his studio. Yet while the names of Impressionists like Monet and Auguste Renoir and Edgar Degas have lodged in the minds of all students of art for more than a century, there has been little or no room for Caillebotte. As Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art, puts it, Caillebotte "was left out of the early histories of Impressionism..."

Fame finally comes to little-known Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo

Fame finally comes to little-known Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo

Fame finally comes to little-known Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo

Fame finally comes to little-known Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo

Fame finally comes to little-known Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo

February 14, 2015
February 2015
Fame finally comes to little-known Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo
When American millionaires bought paintings by Piero di Cosimo in the late 19th century, almost all the works were attributed to other Italian Renaissance artists. Piero, a painter of Florence during its golden age, was simply regarded as too obscure to produce such masterful works. It took many decades for Piero to emerge even partly from such shadows. Not until 1938 did the private Schaeffer Galleries in New York mount a small show of seven paintings all correctly attributed to him. But there was no other Piero exhibition anywhere in the world in the 20th century. Art historians, however, continued to study the fascinating case of Piero, discovering more of his works, many of the highest quality...

Neoimpressionism exhibit makes points about poetry, music's influence

Neoimpressionism exhibit makes points about poetry, music's influence

Neoimpressionism exhibit makes points about poetry, music's influence

Neoimpressionism exhibit makes points about poetry, music's influence

Neoimpressionism exhibit makes points about poetry, music's influence

October 4, 2014
October 2014
Neoimpressionism exhibit makes points about poetry, music's influence
Museum exhibitions about the great artist Georges Seurat and his band of Neoimpressionists usually delve into the new scientific theories of light and color that made many painters in the late 19th century experiment with novel ways of applying paint to a canvas. Seurat and his friends used a technique known as pointillism — painting little dots of different color that were supposed to mix when they reached the retina of a viewer's eye. The best-known work is probably his monumental "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" from 1884 now owned by the Art Institute of Chicago. All this emphasis on technique is turned upside down by an exhibition that just opened at the Phillips Collection in Washington...

Exhibit shows Degas' and Cassatt's painterly influence on each other

Exhibit shows Degas' and Cassatt's painterly influence on each other

Exhibit shows Degas' and Cassatt's painterly influence on each other

Exhibit shows Degas' and Cassatt's painterly influence on each other

Exhibit shows Degas' and Cassatt's painterly influence on each other

May 24, 2014
May 2014
Exhibit shows Degas' and Cassatt's painterly influence on each other
In 1877, when he was 43, the French impressionist Edgar Degas began stopping by the studio of the 33-year-old American Mary Cassatt and offering her a point or two that might embolden her painting. Their relationship, a close one for a decade, is one of the best known in art history. What is not known is whether the relationship blossomed beyond a few pedagogical pointers into a secret romantic interlude. Each destroyed the letters from the other. Most historians doubt an affair. The artists seemed too strait-laced for that...

Albrecht Dürer: Drawn to art at an early age

Albrecht Dürer: Drawn to art at an early age

Albrecht Dürer: Drawn to art at an early age

Albrecht Dürer: Drawn to art at an early age

Albrecht Dürer: Drawn to art at an early age

March 31, 2013
March 2013
Albrecht Dürer: Drawn to art at an early age
The celebrated Renaissance artist's watercolors, drawings and prints — many lent by the Albertina Museum in Vienna — are the focus of a new exhibition at the National Gallery in Washington. It is rare for a museum to lend the heart of its most prized collection to another museum, but the Albertina in Vienna has done just that by shipping almost a hundred watercolors and drawings by Albrecht Dürer to the National Gallery of Art here for an exhibition. Dürer, a German born in Nuremberg in 1471, is the great master of the Northern European Renaissance, akin to Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo of the Italian Renaissance. Dürer's greatness, according to Andrew Robison of the National Gallery, curator of the show, is based on his watercolors, drawings and prints, just as Da Vinci and Raphael are identified with painting and Michelangelo with sculpture...

Read all about it: Newspapers as art in exhibit

Read all about it: Newspapers as art in exhibit

Read all about it: Newspapers as art in exhibit

Read all about it: Newspapers as art in exhibit

Read all about it: Newspapers as art in exhibit

October 16, 2012
October 2012
Read all about it: Newspapers as art in exhibit
The exhibition 'Shock of the News' at the National Gallery of Art in Washington looks at artists' real and figurative use of newspapers in their works, including those by Hans Richter, Ellsworth Kelly and Paul Sietsema. For a hundred years, artists have been using and abusing newspapers as a vital part of their works. Pungent examples include the Spanish painter Salvador Dali creating an absurd newspaper about himself, the German-born Swiss artist Dieter Roth making a sausage, complete with gelatin and spices, out of copies of the British tabloid Daily Mirror and the American Jim Hodges coating a Jordanian newspaper entirely in 24 karat gold. Little attention has been paid to this phenomenon by the world's museums in the past. But these examples and five dozen others now make up a novel exhibition called "Shock of the News" that opened recently at the National Gallery of Art in Washington and will close Jan. 27. It goes nowhere else...

Scaling the ladders of Joan Miró's artwork

Scaling the ladders of Joan Miró's artwork

Scaling the ladders of Joan Miró's artwork

Scaling the ladders of Joan Miró's artwork

Scaling the ladders of Joan Miró's artwork

May 17, 2012
May 2012
Scaling the ladders of Joan Miró's artwork
An exciting survey at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. — 'Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape' — makes a spirited attempt to find and explore the artist's politics. Joan Miró, the great Spanish painter of dreams and symbols, lived through so many harrowing eras of the 20th century that critics believe his masterpieces surely reflect the tensions of political events in one way or another. But Miró's world of art was so special — with stars and moons, biomorphs and delightful dogs and sly monsters and wonderful color — that it has always been difficult to find much politics there. An exhibition that just arrived at the National Gallery of Art — "Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape" — makes a spirited attempt to find and explore the politics...

Phillips Collection exhibition links the box camera and painters

Phillips Collection exhibition links the box camera and painters

Phillips Collection exhibition links the box camera and painters

Phillips Collection exhibition links the box camera and painters

Phillips Collection exhibition links the box camera and painters

March 25, 2012
March 2012
Phillips Collection exhibition links the box camera and painters
The first Kodak camera had a big influence on painting, as 'Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard' details. George Eastman introduced the first Kodak camera in 1888. It was a small wooden box covered in Morocco leather with a roll of dry film inside. You no longer had to be a professional carrying a tripod, heavy plates, a darkening cape and liquid developer to take a photograph. Any amateur could hold the box waist-high, aim at a subject like the family and press the button that released the shutter that covered the lens. The box — later just the roll — could be sent back to the company to develop the film. Kodak advertisements promised, "You press the button, we do the rest." The Kodak, continually improved by Eastman's American company, soon became a big seller. Among the enthusiasts were young painters in Europe...

Andy Warhol in 'Headlines' at Washington's National Gallery

Andy Warhol in 'Headlines' at Washington's National Gallery

Andy Warhol in 'Headlines' at Washington's National Gallery

Andy Warhol in 'Headlines' at Washington's National Gallery

Andy Warhol in 'Headlines' at Washington's National Gallery

October 9, 2011
October 2011
Andy Warhol in 'Headlines' at Washington's National Gallery
The National Gallery of Art zooms in on the Pop artist's appetite for gaudy tabloid newspapers and their influence on his work. Andy Warhol, the guru of Pop art, reveled in a lifelong obsession with newspapers, especially tabloids and their garish headlines. As a teenager, he saved pages with photos of his favorite Hollywood stars. Throughout his life he packed hundreds of newspapers into boxes he called "time capsules" to whet the fancy of the future. He collected scores of fraying clippings about himself in 34 scrapbooks. But most important, he used newspapers, especially the front pages, to model and inform some of the most important works of his fine art. It is hard to imagine Warhol the artist without his headlines...
'Headlines' photo gallery

Marc Chagall among friends in Philadelphia

Marc Chagall among friends in Philadelphia

Marc Chagall among friends in Philadelphia

Marc Chagall among friends in Philadelphia

Marc Chagall among friends in Philadelphia

April 24, 2011
April 2011
Marc Chagall among friends in Philadelphia
In a twist, the city's Museum of Art combines his earlier works with his 'School of Paris' contemporaries to reveal the artist in a communal phase. Marc Chagall was an enormously popular 20th century painter, revered by the public for his rooftop fiddlers, biblical lore, upside down lovers and fanciful visions of Jewish shtetl life in the old Russian empire. Art historians and critics, however, have always had difficulty placing him among the many currents of modern art; to them, he often seemed unique, special, one of a kind. Some also found him repetitive and sentimental. But Chagall was not always a loner. In an innovative exhibition, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has decided to concentrate on his younger years when, far from unique, he and a band of mainly East European, mainly Jewish artists honed their craft in Paris...

'Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World' by James Carroll

'Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World' by James Carroll

'Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World' by James Carroll

'Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World' by James Carroll

'Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World' by James Carroll

April 17, 2011
April 2011
'Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World' by James Carroll
Examining the violent histories of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. James Carroll's latest book is very ambitious. Invoking history, anthropology, social psychology, geography and theology, the author, a former Catholic priest, delves into the stories of the violence unleashed by the organized religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam throughout their existence. He anchors the book by describing how each has used the city of Jerusalem, holy to all three, as a symbol or metaphor or touchstone. The book's title and subtitle, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World," suggest that Carroll intends to demonstrate that the tumultuous past of these religions is vital in understanding why Jerusalem and, of course, Israel and the Palestinian territories have become a hotbed of political, nationalist and religious conflict and violence. But Carroll, a newspaper columnist, prolific novelist and the author of the popular "Constantine's Sword," a history of 2,000 years of Christianity's anti-Semitism, has something else in mind...
Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World

A Fresh Look at Paul Gauguin

A Fresh Look at Paul Gauguin

A Fresh Look at Paul Gauguin

A Fresh Look at Paul Gauguin

A Fresh Look at Paul Gauguin

March 13, 2011
March 2011
A Fresh Look at Paul Gauguin
The French artist spun myths about himself and his exotic travels to boost sales. A new show in Washington, D.C., examines these tales and his work. Many artists and historians look on the painter Paul Gauguin as one of the founders of modern art. His work in the 19th century brimmed with innovation. He tried to paint with his mind rather than his eyes. He colored grass red and figures of Christ yellow. He played with perspective. His obsession with primitive peoples engaged and influenced Picasso. Yet, as Gauguin specialist Belinda Thomson points out, the innovations that excited everyone 100 years ago "are not necessarily those that have the strongest appeal" in the 21st century. Old innovations do not surprise anyone; they turn into clichés instead. Gauguin's paintings must be regarded differently now. They must be examined, Thomson says, for "their beauty and complexity"...

'The Shah' by Abbas Milani

'The Shah' by Abbas Milani

'The Shah' by Abbas Milani

'The Shah' by Abbas Milani

'The Shah' by Abbas Milani

February 20, 2011
February 2011
'The Shah' by Abbas Milani
A comprehensive new biography of the ousted Iranian leader finds him 'a tragic figure.' It was uncanny to read the closing chapters of this splendidly detailed biography of the last shah of Iran while tumultuous and jubilant crowds in Egypt drove Hosni Mubarak from power. The parallels were so close they seemed to come out of some fanciful fiction. Like Mubarak, the shah—in power for 37 years—was blinded by a megalomania and a thirst for power that isolated him from the needs and demands of his people. Like Mubarak, the shah, spurning the advice of others, refused to initiate reforms until it was too late to satisfy his critics. Like Mubarak, the shah, who fled Iran in 1979, had maintained a facade of strength and stability that lulled the United States into believing that the iron-clad strength of its Middle Eastern ally was in no danger of cracking. But the biographer Abbas Milani, the head of the Iranian studies program at Stanford University, is not trying to depict the life and downfall of the shah as a model for political upheavals in the Middle East...
The Shah

'Hide/Seek': National Portrait Gallery's exhibition of homosexual art

'Hide/Seek': National Portrait Gallery's exhibition of homosexual art

'Hide/Seek': National Portrait Gallery's exhibition of homosexual art

'Hide/Seek': National Portrait Gallery's exhibition of homosexual art

'Hide/Seek': National Portrait Gallery's exhibition of homosexual art

November 14, 2010
November 2010
'Hide/Seek': National Portrait Gallery's exhibition of homosexual art
'Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture' celebrates gay and lesbian work, some created when it didn't dare truly expose itself. In 1989, the private Corcoran Gallery of Art, battered by threats from Congress and worried about future federal grants, canceled an exhibition by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe that included male nudity and homosexual scenes. The controversial banning made the Washington art establishment seem philistine, intolerant and spineless. Times and attitudes change. Now, a Washington museum is pioneering a show that celebrates gay and lesbian art and delineates its place in the history of American painting and photography...

'The Sacred Made Real' at National Gallery

'The Sacred Made Real' at National Gallery

'The Sacred Made Real' at National Gallery

'The Sacred Made Real' at National Gallery

'The Sacred Made Real' at National Gallery

March 28, 2010
March 2010
'The Sacred Made Real' at National Gallery
Spanish painted wooden sculptures of Christ, many of which have never before left their churches, are in an exhibition in Washington. Any tourist quickly senses something different in the churches of Spain. Unlike the pure idealized figures of Christ in most of the rest of Europe, those of Spain seem to bleed. The skins show bruising, the eyes droop in anguish, the feet gnarl in pain. Spain's realistic sculptures of Christ and Christian saints usually leave their churches and monasteries only once a year. They are placed on massive floats and carried by strong men in the processions of Holy Week. Hooded penitents walk behind barefoot, some striking their backs with the cords of a whip. The painted wooden sculptures, most created in the 17th century, are regarded as some of Spain's finest works of art. But, still venerated for their religious power, they are seldom seen in a museum...

Marcel Duchamp's Étant donnés: The revival of a masterpiece

Marcel Duchamp's Étant donnés: The revival of a masterpiece

Marcel Duchamp's Étant donnés: The revival of a masterpiece

Marcel Duchamp's Étant donnés: The revival of a masterpiece

Marcel Duchamp's Étant donnés: The revival of a masterpiece

September 27, 2009
September 2009
Marcel Duchamp's Étant donnés: The revival of a masterpiece
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, which has had the late Frenchman's landmark work as part of its permanent collection for 40 years, marks the anniversary with a greatly expanded exhibition. Marcel Duchamp served for many years as both a prince and court jester to modern art in the 20th century. While creating some well-known works, he also punctured pretensions with jokes, pranks, aphorisms and a perpetual hunt for new byways of art. Then he announced he was abandoning art, giving it all up to play chess. But he was not telling the truth. He worked in secret for 20 years, assembling a huge, fanciful and puzzling diorama. When he died in 1968, only a few people knew about his secret. A year after his death, the Philadelphia Museum of Art installed the secret work and displayed it to the public. While some patrons were shocked by its sexuality, it soon became a magnet for young artists looking for new paths to take their own work. Duchamp's masterpiece, known as "Étant donnés," a shortened form of its French title, is now regarded as one of the most powerful and dynamic influences on contemporary art...

Royal armor and portraits at the National Gallery of Art

Royal armor and portraits at the National Gallery of Art

Royal armor and portraits at the National Gallery of Art

Royal armor and portraits at the National Gallery of Art

Royal armor and portraits at the National Gallery of Art

July 12, 2009
July 2009
Royal armor and portraits at the National Gallery of Art
Suits of armor were once so finely wrought that an attacking lance would glance off their smooth metal harmlessly. But then, as the Middle Ages moved into the Renaissance, European kings demanded that the craftsmen finish the armor with elaborate decoration. All the engraving and embossing upset the surface of the armor. A lance would no longer slip away. But that did not matter. Decorated armor was for show, so that the kings would look majestic and powerful and indestructible, especially in portraits by great painters...

Back out in the world, Afghanistan's hidden treasures

Back out in the world, Afghanistan's hidden treasures

Back out in the world, Afghanistan's hidden treasures

Back out in the world, Afghanistan's hidden treasures

Back out in the world, Afghanistan's hidden treasures

June 15, 2008
June 2008
Back out in the world, Afghanistan's hidden treasures
Ancient artifacts secretly kept in a bank vault in the war-torn country, safe from marauding militia, looters and the Taliban, are now on a museum tour for all the world to see. In an act that provoked worldwide outrage, the fundamentalist Taliban rulers of Afghanistan in March 2001 destroyed the monumental statues of Buddha that had been carved into the rock cliffs of Bamiyan 1,600 years ago. The shocking destruction was not an isolated event. As part of the same campaign, the Taliban sent hordes of militants into the Kabul Museum to smash every statue, no matter how small, that depicted a human figure or any other creature... But the museum did not die. Unknown to outsiders, museum director Omara Khan Massoudi and his assistants had packed the finest treasures of the museum during the 1980s and placed them in the vaults of the Central Bank in the presidential palace. "What kept them safe," says Hiebert, "was the code of silence"...