A tour of “Stretching the Canvas: Eight Decades of Native Painting,” on view at the National Museum of the American Indian. A visit to Neue Galerie to learn about the career of Madame d’Ora, an Austrian photographer whose work captured both the glamor and the darkness of her lifetime. And a look at John Durand’s “The Rapalje Children,” a treasure of the New-York Historical Society’s collection.

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Coming up on 'NYC-Arts,' a look at the exhibition 'Stretching the Canvas,' now on view at the National Museum of the American Indian.

I think it was that first tempera paint on newsprint in kindergarten that said to me, 'This is what I'm gonna be doing the rest of my life.'

It was that action of the hands.

And I remember being 6 years old or something like 6 1/2, and thinking 'I don't know, this feels, I'm in my zone now.'

And lightning hit me, 'This is what I'm gonna be doing the rest of my life,' and I'm still doing this.

And so I think you can be born a painter sometimes.

And a visit to the Neue Galerie for a look at the career of Madame d'Ora, the Austrian photographer whose work captured both the glamour and the darkness of her lifetime.

Hats were the most important thing for a woman.

So, you would buy the hat before you buy the dress.

There are hundreds of hat photographs by d'Ora, but, of course, they were fashion photographs and used in the magazines.

And to stress the fact of the importance of the hat photographs, 'Paris Presse' had contemporary artists come in and make new hats, inspired by the creations that d'Ora photographed.

Funding for 'NYC-Arts' is made possible by... This program is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

Additional funding provided by members of Thirteen.

'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.

And by Swann Auction Galleries.

Swann Auction Galleries -- we have a different way of looking at auctions -- offering vintage books and fine arts since 1941, working to combine knowledge with accessibility.

Whether you're a lifelong collector, a first-time buyer, or looking to sell, information at swanngalleries.com.

♪♪ ♪♪

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

I'm Philippe de Montebello, at the Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center.

On our program tonight, we'll visit the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

It is located downtown in New York City, at Bowling Green.

The museum's mission is to foster a more informed understanding of native peoples of the Americas.

Currently on view is 'Stretching the Canvas,' 80 years of native painting.

It is a group show of work by over 30 artists, and they're all drawn from the museum's permanent collection, and created between 1940 to the present day.

The premise of the exhibition is to challenge expectations of what constitutes Indian art.

The works reflect a great variety of color, style, and subject, from flat illustrative pieces, that depict idealized scenes, to large-scale abstract work, that uses irony to confront native issues.

The show hinges on the moment when these artists broke through to modernism.

I think it was that first tempera paint on newsprint in kindergarten that said to me, 'This is what I'm gonna be doing the rest of my life.'

It was that action of the hands.

And I remember being 6 years old or something like 6 1/2, and thinking 'I don't know, this feels, I'm in my zone now.'

And lightning hit me, 'This is what I'm gonna be doing the rest of my life,' and I'm still doing this.

And so I think you can be born a painter sometimes.

We begin the exhibition 'Stretching the Canvas' in this large salon-scaled gallery, with some of our oversized large paintings.

And the reason there is that we felt that this work was comparable to anything you would see at the Whitney, anything you would see at the Museum of Modern Art, and so we really wanted to put sort of our best foot forward and invite other museums to imagine this kind of work in their galleries.

Making paintings actually is not so much a traditional art form.

There are traditions of painting on hide or Kiefer paintings and that kind of thing.

But most of the modern painting sort of comes out of these episodes in the 1900-teens and 1920s, when young native students, particularly in the Southwest, even in Oklahoma, were learning sort of the basics of art instruction in their schools.

The schools encouraged this American Indian art style that was that flat illustrative style, focusing on Native American subjects.

Just to give our visitors some sense of where this is all coming from, and the kind of foundation from which this more adventuresome work grew, from there we investigate, in a suite of galleries, some of the themes that invite an artist to think about their art in a more broad way.

We have a small gallery that looks at artists who traveled to New York City in the 1940s and 1950s, and began to think about themselves more as artists on a world stage.

Some artists were inspired by, you know, pop art, and developments of the 1960s and 1970s, with their oversize canvases and hot colors, and a kind of more playful approach to Native American subjects.

One of the things I think that American Indians struggled with, throughout the 20th century and 21st century are these expectations that they're not part of the modern world.

So people express surprise, 'Well, American Indians use cellphones or they drive cars, or just ridiculous things like that, but it's not as uncommon as you might think.

So those artists are a part of the contemporary world.

They're also part of their traditional world and communities, as well.

America Meredith, a Cherokee artist, is really a polymath.

She's currently the editor of a very influential art journal, and she is also an artist, a painter.

I went to graduate school at San Francisco Art Institute, and I actually had fellow classmates say, you know, 'Why would anyone go to grad school for painting?'

So I had a lot of time to, you know, think, of like why is painting relevant, is it passé? And it's like, okay, human beings have been painting for the last 100,000 years.

So is dancing passé, is poetry passé, is singing passé? No, I think these are all just intrinsically human expressions.

And I think painting is the core if you're passionate about color and texture.

Painting is so primeval, I think.

This piece in the show, it's from 2005.

The main character is this very controversial Lakota medicine man, John Fire Lame Deer.

And he's basically saying, 'Go out into the world,' that you'll serve people better if you go and fully live your life, and don't try to live this strict, pure, you know, cloistered life.

But just go out and screw up.

The ledger design references ledger art -- you know, this kind of transitional art -- and that's an intersection, too.

When Western materials came out to the Plains, these old ledgers were used by the artists who previously had been painting on animal hides.

And I think it's one of the greatest ironies, is, if you paint on this beautiful bimorphic shape, this animal hide, many people don't consider that art with a capital 'A.: But if you paint on a rectangle, and it's paper, then it's okay.

Norval Morrisseau invented this incredible woodland style that I'm referencing -- that very abstract, heavily black outlined snake and eagle.

So the flat stone in the corner is what I grew up with in Oklahoma, that Bacone school painting style.

So, it's very flat, it's heavily outlined.

It's kind of the Southwest landscape, but I use kind of pop imagery and kind of children's imagery as touchstones that I think most people coming here are sort of familiar with Richard Scarry, an amazing artist, and then the Muppets, so that's from my childhood.

We see a lot of control in native art, and we don't see people letting loose.

So, Mario Martinez is a wonderful example of someone who's letting loose and being very free and very spontaneous with his imagery.

I've always loved abstraction.

I have a proclivity to it.

I was drawn to it because I understood as a young kid that you didn't do ceremonial imagery, you didn't do cultural imagery to benefit from your culture, to benefit monetarily.

So, as a kid, I knew that I couldn't use that imagery, so I guess a great avenue out would be what I fell in love with in Western modernism.

But, in a pure sense, in the more spiritual sense, an energy sense, abstraction is, I think, for me, still the most powerful language and not quite as understood.

I think another theme of the show is that people being unconstrained.

So, you have a lot of people looking outside their tribal heritage and kind of looking at the broader world.

Kay WalkingStick was born in New York, and she's still in the Northeast.

She is Cherokee, but she very seldomly uses any kind of overt Cherokee imagery.

She's developed her own.

So, in this show, she uses beautiful Southwestern landscape.

And of course, native people travel and, you know, they see and respond to different communities.

So, she has her own style where she's using iconography and then landscape.

So this kind of inner and outer world -- the symbolic world and the representational world.

And many of her works are diptych, so they're divided in two, and that's just kind of something she set for herself.

When I was a child, I lived at Bacone College campus.

So, they had an art program that was always -- it's unique because it's always been run by native art directors.

It started in 1935 and they actually have a piece by the first director, Acee Blue Eagle.

Dick West, he was a director of Bacone, and then he's Southern Cheyenne.

In the show, there's two pieces.

So, one is in the section called 'Training Ground,' that is considered the 20th-century native way to paint, where it's heavily outlined, heavily contoured.

But, as you see, he, in this painting, it's very abstract, he's playing with color, he's playing with texture.

The fact that he really just gave himself permission to experiment in many different ways.

And I think sometimes the art canon doesn't really reflect how free some of these artists were.

We think one of the great standouts of this exhibition is James Lavadour, his painting 'Blanket,' which is actually a series of panels that suggest landscape without really representing it.

What I particularly enjoy about his work -- and I wouldn't say he's entirely self-taught, but he is not followed -- he doesn't come out of a university studio school system -- but he has this wonderful insight about the quality of paint and its relationship to geology.

And that, you know, paint -- what is paint but basically minerals that are suspended in liquid?

So his insight is that painting, in a sense, is kind of act of geology.

By creating a painting, you're almost mimicking geological forces of hydrology and layering and stratigraphy.

So he works with those pigments on surface and manipulates them until suggestions of landscape begin to emerge, as if he's not painting an image of a landscape but actually constructing the land himself out of the paint.

Turns out that museums across the country are beginning to understand that their representation of American art history is limited and constrained, to a certain extent, that is doesn't include the work of some of these accomplished artists who have been working for many decades.

I'm very impressed with the show because it really says that, come attention or not, come acceptance or not, we were going to do what we were going to do.

And we were as good as anybody else.

It is proof that we are part of the American cultural experience.

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Next, we visit the Neue Galerie on East 86th Street, for a look at the work of the Austrian photographer known as Madame d'Ora.

It is the largest exhibition of its kind ever presented in the United States.

Born in 1881 to a wealthy Jewish family, Dora Kallmus became one of the premier photographers of her day, and was the first women to open her own photography studio in Vienna.

The exhibition follows her career from Vienna to Paris, from her time as a dazzling high-society portraitist, to her sombre career, after the devastation of World War II.

Madame d'Ora captured the glamour, creativity, darkness, and upheaval of her lifetime.

Madame D'Ora was an incredible woman.

She opened her studio in Vienna in 1906, and stopped photographing in 1957, so we have 50 years covered by photographs.

D'Ora took photographs of many of the artists that have been shown here in the Neue Galerie, like Gustav Klimt, who was the first painter she would photograph, in 1907.

By the way, the last painter she photographed was Picasso in 1955, so we have quite a range here.

This is the first monographic exhibition dedicated to a woman here, so it's about her being a woman and being so successful as a photographer.

Her aim was to adapt amateur photography, which had come up only 10 years ago, to professional photography.

So she tried very much that, in her studio, people would feel at ease, would feel at home.

Soon she became well-known for the fact that she made people much more beautiful than they would see themselves in the mirror.

And this, most probably, is the cause that even high aristocracy would turn to her studio.

These high aristocrats tended to have very many children, so it was difficult to make an original group photograph.

We have one photograph with the Archduke, with the daughters -- I think, five -- around him.

She was a very clever woman, and she was also a very good businesswoman.

Already in the portraits, in the later years of the First World War, you can see the worry of the world falling into pieces.

You can see this in these fashion shots that seem a little eerie.

Because, you know, in 1916, things were already very bad.

But, in Vienna, one tried to keep a touch of normality.

But, by the end of the war, all this was gone.

So she decided to move to Paris, where she thought things would be easier for her.

You could say she is the inventor of a very successful idea.

You have a well-known actor, you have a well-known fashion house, you have a well-known photographer, and this image you can sell easily to the illustrated press.

And this is a recipe that still works.

And she did this in Paris.

You can see in this exhibition that she had dresses by Patou, worn by Josephine Baker, which, of course, would be much more fun than Patou dress just by an unknown moniker.

It's difficult to imagine today, but hats were the most important thing for a woman.

So, you would buy the hat before you buy the dress.

There are hundreds of hat photographs by d'Ora.

But, of course, they were fashion photographs and used in the magazines.

And to stress the fact of the importance of the hat photographs, 'Paris Presse' had contemporary artists come in and make new hats, inspired by the creations that d'Ora photographed.

Dora Kallmus was Jewish.

She was endangered in Paris, where the Nazis came in 1940.

She was in hiding, in a small village in southern France.

She waited for the arrival of her sister, who was still in Austria at that time.

And this turned out to be a disaster.

The sister never could leave Austria, and died in a concentration camp.

In 1945, she went back to Paris.

She had to start completely anew, She was over 65 at this time.

But it was her aim, after the Second World War, was just work she did in refugee camps.

She did not only cover survivors of the concentration camps, but also old German ladies who had been deplaced, and women with little children who evidently have no future in front of them but to stay in these camps.

And the other very important work for her was to go to slaughterhouses and to take photographs there.

Already in her diaries, in the 1940s, she compared the fate of Jewish people in Europe with the fate of animals in the slaughterhouse.

They had no choice.

They only can wait to be killed.

She had her plans -- the same plans she used to have in the '20s and '30s.

I think, so fascinating in her late portraits, is that, you know, she always used to set people out at their best.

And now, suddenly, she is confronted with old people -- old as she was herself.

And this specific photograph of Colette is one of the last that was taken of the author, shortly before her death.

Evidently, feeble and very old, and you have the impression that this an incredible woman.

What you can see in the work of Madame d'Ora is kind of a mirror of the changing culture in Austria and France, during the 20th century, from the aristocratic public, around the turn of the century, to the fancy artists and fashion world of the 1920s and '30s, to the complete change of attitude, after the Second World War.

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Welcome to the New York Historical Society, the city's oldest museum, founded in 1804.

My name is Roberta Olson, and I'm curator of drawings at the Society.

I'd like to introduce you to 'The Rapalje Children.'

We have Garret, George, Anne, and Jacques.

They were painted by John Durand in 1768.

And it's an incredible portrait for a number of reasons.

Durand, who was probably a Frenchman, is really unknown until 1766.

He comes from Virginia to New York, for the Beekman family.

And for the Beekmans, he paints six portraits of their children, and of course gains an incredible reputation.

The Rapaljes, who were also a mercantile family of New York, hire him to paint the scions of their family.

This portrait of the four siblings is an example of early Colonial portraiture, and it's only of the many stellar examples in our amazing collection of this genre.

Now, this is very different from most portraiture of the time, because there's no landscape, no background, and you have these four siblings, who to my mind look very contemporary.

They are painted by Durand in this style that is somewhat flat for the time.

He depends a great deal on outline, and these bold, flat colors.

They are posed in such a way that they look assured.

One has his hand in his coat, which was, again, a typical posture for a gentleman.

The young lady, Anne, has this beautiful choker, this double strand of pearls around her neck.

She is holding a rose, which is a symbol of love and also fertility.

She would be of marriageable age soon.

Durand cuts the painting, which is again a very 20th-century, late-19th-century technique, so that we don't see the feet.

It's not really a full-length portrait.

It's a three-quarter portrait, which implies a relationship with us, as though we can exchange space with them.

But there's something wonderful -- the dynamics amongst the four of them.

The four are unusually self-possessed, for adolescents.

They gaze directly at us, and, in fact, we feel as though we communicate with them.

Their eyes grab us and their smiles engage us, and we feel as though we could have a conversation.

I hope you've enjoyed your experience at the New York Historical Society, and hope that you'll come back and visit us again, to explore the riches of the collection.

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Thank you for joining us this evening.

I'm Philippe de Montebello at the Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center.

Good night.

And see you next time.

Next week on 'NYC-Arts,' a conversation with world-renowned celebrated pianist Leif Ove Andsnes.

So full of passion of a young man wanting to conquer the world.

And at the same time, it has this innocence, beauty, melodies that comes from the sort of folk song tradition.

They speak very directly to our hearts, and it's very intimate.

♪♪

And a visit to The Frick Collection, for a look at three paintings by the Dutch master Vermeer.

We also have another fabulous painting, by Vermeer, and it's 'Officer and Laughing Girl'. And it was purchased by Frick in 1911.

And just to give you the sense of how Vermeer's star has begun to rise at this point, Frick paid $225,000 just 10 years later.

So he's obviously not only very interested in Vermeer, but also recognizes the quality of this particular work.

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Funding for 'NYC-Arts' is made possible by... This program is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

Additional funding provided by members of Thirteen.

'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.

And by Swann Auction Galleries.

Swann Auction Galleries -- we have a different way of looking at auctions -- offering vintage books and fine arts since 1941, working to combine knowledge with accessibility.

Whether you're a lifelong collector, a first-time buyer, or looking to sell, information at swanngalleries.com.