Surrealism And 'American Vision' At The Peabody Essex

By Jared Bowen

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Aug. 11, 2011

Nahant Rock and Seashore, 1855 Oil on canvas, 18 x 30 in. (45.7 x 76.2 cm) Courtesy of The New-York Historical Society (Image courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum)




BOSTON — The dog days of summer are upon us, and what better way to duck out of the heat than by taking in some art? Right now, the Peabody Essex museum in Salem hosts two must-see shows: One exploring the artistic and personal relationship between Surrealist photographer Man Ray and his lover, and the other a rare look at the Hudson River School. WGBH's Jared Bowen joined Morning Edition host Bob Seay to talk about both shows.

Man Ray (1890–1976); Neck, c. 1930; Gelatin silver print; 9 1/8 x 7 in. (23 x 17.8 cm); The Penrose Collection, Sussex, England; © 2011 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Courtesy of The Penrose Collection. All rights reserved.

Man Ray, Lee Miller: Partners In Surrealism explores the tempestuous, decades-long relationship between photographer Man Ray and the supermodel and photographer Lee Miller. When Miller's modeling career ended, she followed Man Ray to Paris, becoming his student and lover. "We see it all laid out, his photography, her photography, the letters they wrote to each other and how they influenced each other and some of the really awkward and awful ways they tormented each other," Bowen explained.

Painting the American Vision presents the pastoral landscapes of the Hudson River School. Painted in the mid-1800s, the work depicts American landscapes from the Hudson River Valley to Conway, N.H. -- and westward, too. "This is a group of people who were as close to the War of Independence as we are to WWII so they're really trying to carve out a new realm and establish themselves," Bowen said.

The work was also intended to reflect on nature for nature's sake. "They wanted to bring out the peace of nature and how it sort of a temple and how you're supposed to find sanctuary there. This is not like Europe, not big cities -- we're getting out of the woods," Bowen explained.

If you can't make it to Salem, you might catch The Help, the story of Southern society girl who begins collecting the life stories of the African-American servants in her town. "It's a beautiful film, it's got an immensely strong cast," said Bowen, who had a chance to interview some of the people behind the film.

Click the player above to hear Bob Seay and Jared Bowen's full conversation.

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