"I am working on a large decorative landscape of Central Park," wrote New York artist Agnes Tait to the local chairperson of the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project in 1934. "My scene is that of a large skating pond against the background of large buildings seen in the late afternoon light. Fortunately, the recent snows have afforded the effects I was seeking." The work, Skating in Central Park, was chosen for display at the Department of Labor and became the artist's most popular painting. In portraying this particular slice of the American scene, Tait captures the gaiety and commotion of the moment and makes tangible the brisk, cold feeling of a winter day.
The painting is currently on display at the National Museum of American Art in a special exhibition that celebrates the opening of the neighboring MCI Center, home to D.C.'s professional basketball and hockey teams, the Wizards and the Capitals. On view through April 5, 1998, "Time Out - Sports in Art" features works drawn from the museum's permanent collection that depict a sweep of sporting activities ranging from Soap Box racing to bush league baseball. As leisure time and sports entertainment expanded in the 19th century, American artists who shared the public's growing fascination with sports reacted by incorporating the subject into their art. From photographer Harold Edgerton's stop-action exposures of pole-vaulting to Claes Oldenburg's preliminary model for his monumental Batcolumn, the show presents an engaging look at this genre of American art.