At the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

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Gilbert Stuart, <em>The Skater</em>
Gilbert Stuart, The Skater

Depicting his subject in motion was a departure from the norm, making this painting the talk of the town.

Thomas Cole, <em>The Voyage of Life</em>
Thomas Cole, The Voyage of Life

Cole’s extraordinary series chronicles each stage of human life: childhood, youth, manhood, and old age.

George Inness, <em>The Lackawanna Valley</em>
George Inness, The Lackawanna Valley

Inness captures a tension between industrial progress and its effect on the American landscape.

John Singleton Copley, <em>Watson and the Shark</em>
John Singleton Copley, Watson and the Shark

A former orphan, Watson became a wealthy and influential man—after surviving a near-fatal shark attack.

Rembrandt Peale, <em>Rubens Peale with a Geranium</em>
Rembrandt Peale, Rubens Peale with a Geranium

An unusual double portrait: a botanist and his geranium.

Freddy Rodríguez, <em>Paradise for a Tourist Brochure</em>
Freddy Rodríguez, Paradise for a Tourist Brochure

Rodríguez juxtaposes the beauty of the natural world with violent references to Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship in Paradise for a Tourist Brochure.

Henri Matisse, <em>Open Window, Collioure</em>
Henri Matisse, Open Window, Collioure

Although the style implies a rapid or even slipshod painting process, Open Window, Collioure was carefully orchestrated in every aspect.

Hiram Powers, <em>The Greek Slave</em>
Hiram Powers, The Greek Slave

Though at first glance this nude seems plucked from classical antiquity, it actually alludes to modern politics.

Helen Frankenthaler, <em>Mountains and Sea</em>
Helen Frankenthaler, Mountains and Sea

Frankenthaler doesn’t paint the landscape per se, but offers an intuitive response to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia.

Alberto Giacometti, <em>Walking Man II</em>
Alberto Giacometti, Walking Man II

Sartre described Giacometti’s figures as “halfway between nothingness and being,” but “very skinny” works too.

Giovanni Bellini and Titian,<em>The Feast of the Gods</em>
Giovanni Bellini and Titian,The Feast of the Gods

This canvas was rolled, varnished, reworked, and revised again. A classical scene, it once hung in a study.

John Constable, <em>Wivenhoe Park, Essex </em>
John Constable, Wivenhoe Park, Essex

Can you paint a portrait of place? Constable makes a case for it with this idyllic depiction of a country estate.