A selection of NYC-ARTS Greatest Hits: a conversation about French painter Eugène Delacroix, a transformative figure in the European painting of the 19th century; followed by a visit to the American Folk Art Museum, for a look at the “Phrenological Head,” an intriguing sculpture created by Asa Ames.

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♪♪

Next on 'NYC-Arts,' a look back at some of our favorite segments, featuring the best in arts and cultural events in our area.

♪♪

Our own 'Basket of Flowers' was, perhaps, one of the most unloved paintings in the collection.

But once it was clean, which took a year, an entirely new painting was revealed.

We can see volume, color, space, a kind of a flickering, dancing brushwork and color that we could've suspected was there and we ought to have known was there, because it's what we've come to expect from this artist.

The Bush-Holley House today portrays two stories in its history.

The house began life as a home for prosperous merchants in the 18th century and then gained recognition later as a boarding house for American artists and writers.

Today, it's a National Historic Landmark and one of 18 sites on the Connecticut Art Trail.

Since acquiring Bush-Holley House in 1957, the Historical Society expanded the site by building an archive and research library to house some wonderful collections of Greenwich history and then transformed a barn into an education center.

♪♪

Funding for 'NYC-Arts' is made possible by... Additional funding provided by... 'NYC-Arts' is made possible in part by First Republic Bank.

First Republic Bank presents 'First Things First.'

At First Republic Bank, 'First' refers to our first priority -- the clients who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is an individual with unique needs.

First decree -- be a bank whose currency is service in the form of personal banking.

This was First Republic's mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing on our minds.

♪♪ ♪♪

Good evening, and welcome to 'NYC-Arts.'

I'm Paula Zahn at the Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center.

It's been my pleasure, along with my colleague Philippe de Montebello, to bring you the very best of arts and culture in the tri-state area.

Whether it's music, dance, film, theater, the visual arts, classic or contemporary, well-known or newly discovered, 'NYC-Arts' have provided unique access to the people and places that represent the richness of our arts community.

In this program, we'd like to share with you some of our favorite segments.

We hope they are some of your favorites, as well.

♪♪

Good evening, and welcome to 'NYC-Arts.'

I'm Philippe de Montebello, on location at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Currently on view is an exhibition celebrating the work of a major artist of the 19th century, French painter Eugène Delacroix.

What you see behind me are works which demonstrate the arc of his prolific four-decade career.

They illustrate his early years, which were dominated by yearning for both fame and freedom.

A later period is marked by the splendor of his murals and embracing the traditional subjects.

Also on view are paintings which show the glory of his retrospective exhibition in Paris in 1855 as well as his final works, in which he grew more interested in landscape and the creative role of memory.

Delacroix was a transformative figure in the history of European painting, who shaped what we think of today as Modern.

His choice of daring subjects and compositions, his vivid palette and expressive brushwork set in motion innovative ideas that influences such vanguard figures as Manet, Van Gogh, and Gauguin, who followed in his wake.

The exhibition is organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Musée du Louvre in Paris and is the first retrospective in North America devoted to the artist.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Met curator Asher Miller, one of the organizers of this remarkable exhibition.

So, Asher, thank you for welcoming us in the exhibition.

And given that Delacroix is one of the towering figures in all of the Western European art, how can this be the first ever retrospective in North America?

Well, the answer is very easy.

Without the participation of the Louvre, which is the greatest repository of his works in the world, one couldn't do what we've done here, which is to show quite as many paintings, drawings, and prints in the richness and depth and scope that we have.

Delacroix is, of course, frequently called the star in the whole Romantic movement.

And at the same time, a lot of the Modernist artists, whether it's Manet, Van Gogh, and so forth, claim him, in a sense, as their ancestor.

All of his subjects, with the exception at the end of his career, his landscapes and his views from Morocco, are from history, from the Bible, from literature.

How does that translate as Modernist for painters who are concerned with modern life?

Well, in the same way that Delacroix chose his subjects based on his own personal inclinations, his own tastes, he employed his materials in a way that later artists admired.

He's often thought of as the great colorist of the 19th century.

And I think, for visitors who are aware of that alone, they might be surprised to find that his paintings are not always as colorful as the paintings of his successors -- Gauguin, Van Gogh, Degas, in particular.

But what he really did was to liberate color from its subsidiary role in painting as a mere descriptive element of his pictures.

Because it doesn't fill in contours and lines.

That's right.

A little bit, as you'd think of Neoclassical painting.

That's right.

So, it's not the subject matter that's modern, it's the treatment of the subject matter.

Precisely.

And in addition to color -- or, I should say, alloyed with color -- is the way it's applied to the canvas.

Delacroix was not afraid to let the brushwork show.

And, in fact, he was very keen to have his paintings look as sketch-like as possible, which is to say not unfinished but to reveal his process.

Tell us a little bit of something about the condition of the pictures or sort of way in which they were painted.

Because one suspects these pictures were actually a great deal brighter in the early 19th century.

That's very much the case.

For example, one of the great revelations to those of us who've been around the Met for some time, was our own 'Basket of Flowers,' which Delacroix painted in 1848-1849, at a moment when he decided to tackle the genre of still-life painting.

And the painting was, perhaps, one of the most unloved paintings in the collection.

But once it was cleaned, which took a year, an entirely new painting was revealed.

We can see volume, color, space, a kind of a flickering, dancing brushwork and color that we could've suspected was there and we ought to have known was there because it's what we've come to expect from this artist.

That's what the critics wrote about when they saw it at the Salon, yes.

Precisely.

So, tell us a little bit, for the benefit of our public, what do we mean by presenting at the Salon?

In the 19th century, the French state organized an annual exhibition.

It was juried by members of the Academy.

Delacroix employed the Salon as one means to make a reputation.

He didn't ascribe to any one aesthetic or established mode of painting, and the public, over time, came to expect, in his work, something new and different every year.

And that's pretty much what he gave them.

And we know a great deal about all of this because Delacroix was also of a literary mind.

I mean, he read all of these books that he illustrated or drew his subjects from.

But he also wrote -- I own a three-volume version of it -- his own journals, which are really a priceless view into the mind of an artist and a time.

He wrote tens of thousands of pages not only in his journals but in letters.

He was extremely articulate and self-reflective.

And so we have his thoughts on painting, on his own process, on the art of others, on the art of the past, on his contemporaries, on politics -- on all manner of subjects.

Early in the exhibition, there's the wonderful self-portrait of Delacroix.

I think that's an opportunity for us to learn a little bit about Delacroix the man.

Delacroix was born in 1798 at the very tail end of the French Revolution.

He came from a distinguished family that had done quite well in the prior years.

He grew up during a period when the notion of glory was paramount and considered a virtue in France.

He came of age at the moment for Napoleon's downfall.

This coincided with the death of his mother in 1814.

His father had predeceased her.

Very soon after, he and his remaining siblings lost the family fortune, and Delacroix needed to figure out what he was going to do with his life.

He decided to become a painter.

The exhibition at the Met opens with two exceedingly large canvases, one of which shows a contemporary subject, 'Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi.'

This is the time of Greece fighting to liberate itself from the Ottoman Empire.

Precisely.

And the painting is an allegory.

And it's in sort of a face-off with a far more traditional subject, 'Christ in the Garden of Olives' -- Christ, at the moment of his arrest, when he's being consoled by not one but three angels, and he raises his hand in a gesture of consolation.

It's an incredible painting.

And, I must say, I'd always seen it dark, very high up in that church in Paris, and it's the first time one is able to confront the picture out of its architectural context.

But it must've been cleaned relatively recently for the exhibition, no?

That's right, and for this reason, it's one of the revelations of the exhibition.

And it epitomizes this idea of showing the artist one only thought one knew.

Now we see the color, the brushwork, the contrast, the liveliness of his hand.

Yeah, it's astonishing.

What about the second part of his career that culminates in the Exposition Universelle of 1855?

For most artists of the 19th century, or of the early 19th century, sort of finishing school was a grand tour to Italy.

Which he does not do.

Which he wanted to do but never did.

But in 1832, he has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join a diplomatic mission to Morocco, and what Delacroix saw when he arrived there was, to his mind, an iteration of Ancient Rome -- antiquity come to life.

He writes in his journals, if I remember correctly, 'If you want to be in the presence of the ancients, just look at an Arab on the streets in Morocco.'

That's right.

In Morocco, Delacroix made countless drawings in sketchbooks of the scenery but also individuals.

They're absolutely candid, they're trenchant, and Delacroix here reveals a sensitivity to the individuality of the people he encountered and also to a certain sense of style and especially the austerity of the Moroccans.

Well, on the other hand, one of the great pictures in the exhibition -- a dreamy, enchanting picture -- is 'The Women of Algiers,' not of Morocco.

Tell us a little bit about 'The Women of Algiers.'

Delacroix, on his way home from Morocco, stopped in the city of Algiers for just a few days, and the story goes that he found admission to a private home, where he gained entry into the private quarters of the women, the harem.

Based on this experience, he executed a painting which he exhibited at the Salon two years later, in 1834.

So, out of memory and out of sketches.

Out of sketches and memory.

One of the things he does is to distill this memory into a composition that is, in many ways, firmer and more monumental than any he's executed before.

It's a painting whose subject is self-evident but which also is, in some ways, subjectless -- women sitting at their leisure, enjoying a quiet time, doing almost precisely nothing.

Now, the show is replete with depictions of animals.

First of all, the horses of Delacroix are astonishing, in great movement, and uses them in an amazing way in battles -- for example, 'The Battle of Nancy.'

♪♪ What is this fascination with animal life?

Well, first of all, in addition to color and line, one of the great elements of Delacroix's paintings, movement.

There's a certain fluidity in Delacroix's paintings, drawings, and prints between the animal world and the human.

There are aspects of animal physiognomy that show up in his human figures, particularly in scenes of violence.

And aspects of personality, elements of the human that show up in his animal subjects, especially in the magisterial 'Tiger Cub Playing with Its Mother.'

One of the great revelations in the show is a very large drawing, a study of tigers but also of men in 16th-century costume.

It is such a large sheet that Delacroix seems almost to have approached it with the idea that it would give him the space to let his mind roam.

We've spoken a great deal about Delacroix, the grand orchestrator of very complex themes -- historical, literary -- but he observes nature in the most wonderful way and very intimate, and there are sketches, watercolors, seascapes, landscapes.

A few words about those.

Delacroix was an artist of the imagination.

This we know.

But he was, his entire life, someone who loved the outdoors, and he sketched privately in the outdoors.

It's an activity that he undertook increasingly later in his life.

Three masterpieces in this genre are studies of the sea.

Watercolors, oils that he does at Dieppe, beginning in 1851.

♪♪

So, the show ends in quite a dramatic way.

That's right.

It ends with a painting that is a summation of all of his work to date.

It's a lion hunt.

In 1855, there was a universal exposition in Paris, and Delacroix's invited to paint a subject of his own choosing, and he chose 'The Lion Hunt.'

The painting was damaged in 1870, and so what we see is the lower 2/3, but we show it with a sketch for the picture as well as a replica of it that Delacroix made himself so that we can see the composition in its full form.

Well, and it's also amazingly fresh and shows violent and seductive brushwork of his.

It's really extraordinary.

What remains is, indeed, extraordinary.

The surface is alive.

There's color, texture, and just a welter of human figures and animal forms all intertwined, not in a melee, precisely, but in a kind of a choreographed dance.

And that's what appealed, of course, to the next generation of painters.

That's right, that's right.

And there's something about focusing on the bottom section of this painting that re-creates the experience of seeing Delacroix's paintings in the Salon as Delacroix's contemporaries saw them.

Delacroix enlivened the surfaces of his pictures in a way that draws you in.

And, indeed, one of his favorite maxims was that painting acts as a bridge between the mind of the artist and that of the beholder.

Thank you, Asher, for taking us through this astoundingly beautiful retrospective of this great, great figure in Western European painting, leader of the French Romantic school, Eugène Delacroix.

And it's been an enormous privilege.

Thank you.

It's a pleasure for me.

Thank you, Philippe.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

The Bush-Holley House today portrays two stories in its history.

The house began life as a home for prosperous merchants in the 18th century and then gained recognition later as a boarding house for American artists and writers.

Today, it's a National Historic Landmark and one of 18 sites on the Connecticut Art Trail.

Since acquiring Bush-Holley House in 1957, the Historical Society expanded the site by building an archive and research library to house some wonderful collections of Greenwich history and then transformed a barn into an education center.

The storehouse and post office, which sits next door, was adapted as the exhibition gallery for changing exhibitions on history and art.

The Bush story begins with David Bush, who came here with his wife to build a tide-operated gristmill.

He also improved the harbor so that ships could come right up to the docks, and this made the lower landing a really wonderful commercial enterprise for him.

He was a very wealthy man, and I think you can see that in Bush-Holley House.

A scrap of the wallpaper has the British tax stamp on the back and reminds us of one of the causes of the American Revolution.

One sign of David's extraordinary wealth was the enslaved people who lived here, the African-Americans, and there's one room in the house that portrays the kind of ways in which slaves lived in the 18th century, particularly in New England, where they tended to be housed in attics and cellars of the main mansion houses.

The story of the Holleys begins in many ways with the railroad coming to Greenwich in 1848.

It began to bring residents up from New York for summertime activities.

So the Holleys saw an opportunity to take on Bush-Holley House as a boarding house.

It was known as 'The Old House.'

The artists and writers who came here self-identified as the Cos Cob Art Colony.

This was Connecticut's first art colony, particularly known for its innovative and experimental style.

That tone was set by John Henry Twachtman, the American Impressionist artist who was the first to come here and teach summer classes in 1892.

He was followed by J. Alden Weir and Theodore Robinson, who had known Claude Monet.

They came here really helping to translate French Impressionism into an American idiom.

The life of the artists was to go out during the daytime and do their paintings and then gather back in the late afternoon.

Twachtman would often say, 'Don't paint what you see.

Paint what you feel.'

Another of the artists that came here was Childe Hassam, who stayed here off and on over a 20-year period.

Now, the rooms in Bush-Holley House cost from $8 to $20 to rent for the week, and the best bedroom was the $20 room, the one where Childe Hassam would stay with his wife, Maude.

You can see hanging there an etching that he made of the federal mantelpiece with a woman clad in kimono.

Some of the most extraordinary things that you can see in Bush-Holley House today are a set of etchings that he made, almost 30 of them, when he was here in 1915.

One of them, 'At the Dutch Door,' shows a woman standing in front of the Dutch doors of Bush-Holley House, and you can feel almost the sense of the summer inviting you out into the outside.

[ Birds chirping ] I'm standing in a room which was an art studio.

It became the permanent studio of Elmer McRae.

He was a young student who came here in 1896.

He fell in love with the Holleys' daughter, Constant, and married her in 1900.

He would often give exhibitions in this studio that attracted hundreds of people, and his exhibitions would be critiqued in the New York papers.

McRae painted the extraordinary picture of his twin daughter Constant feeding the ducks, which hangs in the hallway of Bush-Holley House.

1912, when that painting was done, is kind of an important year because at the same time, Elmer McRae was one of the early organizers of the International Exhibition of Art in New York in 1913, known as the Armory Show.

That show was significant in that it introduced European Modernists to the vast American public for the first time.

It also had a huge impact on the Cos Cob artists, and you can see that in a painting hanging in McRae's studio of Gay Head on Martha's Vineyard, which shows him really trying to understand a new way to translate and to see landscape.

He began creating more decorative works of art, such as the painting of the irises.

One of the paintings hanging in the hallway is of Clarissa.

She was painted in 1912 by Childe Hassam.

The bookcase is still there as well as the hallway and the stair.

Bush-Holley House is a wonderful 18th-century house.

It has so much character that comes from its early history in the 1830s.

But what's probably most extraordinary is to come here and see the art on the wall from the artists at the turn of the 20th century who fell in love with this house and this village.

♪♪ ♪♪

I'm Paula Zahn at the Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center.

Thanks so much for joining us.

Good night.

To enjoy more of your favorite segments on 'NYC-Arts,' visit our website at NYC-arts.org.

♪♪

Leonard, what a privilege to be able to sit down and talk with you.

I love being here with you, too, Paula.

Where are we?

We're at a moment to take nothing for granted.

Well, it's a pleasure to be with Marci Reaven, the curator of this exhibition full of hope.

We are in the midst of some of the greatest sculptures by the iconic names.

Classical and modern dance are extremely different, and I have so much more to learn before I can really articulate the differences.

And when I listen to Yip Harburg's lyrics in that, I suddenly thought, 'That's what I want to do with my life.'

My pictures reside in very intimate, very private moments.

My primary way of playing the piano is by improvising.

You are, in some respects, on sacred ground.

A woman came to see me perform and said, 'How would you like to play Billie Holiday?'

The 'Cardboard Guitar' is the very first of that moment of realization.

Suddenly, you come and present something, and you get applause.

Great. You know?

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

Funding for 'NYC-Arts' is made possible by... Additional funding provided by... 'NYC-Arts' is made possible, in part, by First Republic Bank.

First Republic Bank presents 'First Things First.'

At First Republic Bank, 'First' refers to our first priority -- the clients who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is an individual with unique needs.

First decree -- be a bank whose currency is service in the form of personal banking.

This was First Republic's mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing on our minds.