Decorating the White House with Smithsonian Art

Continuing a Washington tradition, the Obamas selected artwork from the Smithsonian collections to hang in their historic home

The tradition of Smithsonian museums loaning art to the White House began in the 1940s. (iStockphoto)


The Bow
(Maura McCarthy)

Edgar Degas
(c. 1896-1911, cast 1919-32)
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, Edgar Degas began sculpting rather late in his career. Only one sculpture, The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, was exhibited during his lifetime. After the artist’s death, casts were made of the sculptures that remained in his studio. Degas eschewed the classical figures popular with artists at the time, instead he portrayed the dancers in awkward, offstage moments. “He began to see people as if through a keyhole,” Brougher says, adding that the artist is exploring the human figure in all of its contortions and uncomfortable poses.


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