30 DC Art, History

I waited around for other people, but no one was there besides me and the security guard, a lanky young kid with a wispy mustache. His stiff blue coat was too tight on his active body and too short for his gangly arms. The plastic badge over his heart said "Juan." When I asked him if he liked the Hopper painting, he shifted from solemnity to rocking with the enthusiasm of a man singing. "Oh yeah, man; it's a beaut."

"Do a lot of visitors ask to see this?"

"Most of 'em wanna see the

Sargent [Oyster Gatherers of Cancale]. You gotta see the Niagara [Frederic Edwin Church's depiction of Horseshoe Falls]; it makes you feel like you are right there," he added with a nod.

Being in DC, the Corcoran emphasizes American paintings and themes. I passed Gilbert Stuart's famous portrait of
George Washington. Beneath the bright eyes and rosy cheeks, dour downturned lips made George look like a hard taskmaster. By Church's Niagara, I saw Albert Bierstadt's The Last of the Buffalo, which portrays a Native American killing buffalo, with five or six already on the ground. The sign beside the painting claims that Bierstadt was being "ironic" in portraying Native Americans killing off the Buffalo when in fact European colonizers killed off both.

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