E Pluribus Unum

Do you know what this latin phrase means? It is on all of your coins. It's on the Seal of the United States.

It means: Out of many, one. It refers to the fact that the United States was formed as one nation as a result of the thirteen smaller colonies joining together. In recent years its meaning has also come to suggest that out of many peoples, races, religions and ancestries has emerged a single nation.

This was one of the fascinating tidbits of information we learned on our visit to the U.S. Capitol building.

To visit the Capitol building, you enter through the Capitol Visitor Center...
Walking towards the visitor's center, we get our first glimpse of the Capitol Dome...

You must schedule a specific time to tour the Capitol Building. It is free, but you must book the tour in advance. We were early for our tour so we walked around the outside. It was an cloudy Saturday morning so there was hardly anyone else around.
Such beautiful detailing in the architecture...

The dome is topped with the bronze statue of Freedom. Amazingly, the statue is 19 feet 6 inches tall and weighs approximately 15,000 pounds. She stands on a cast-iron pedestal on a globe encircled with the motto E Pluribus Unum.

Ironically the man who played a key role in the creation of the Freedom statue was at the time a slave. Whether or not he saw the last piece of the Statue of Freedom put into place on December 2, 1863, Philip Reid was by that time a free man who became a master craftsman and artisan. You can read about him here.

Click here to learn more about scheduling a tour of the U.S. Capitol.

In my next blog post I will take you inside the Capitol and the beautiful dome.

All photos in this blog post were taken by my husband and me during our visit in September, 2013.



Today, sports figures and celebrities leave their mark on American society as much as the industrialists, explorers, politicians and writers did in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The National Portrait Gallery displays many portraits of those persons who have inspired us in the sports arena or on the silver screen.

Muhammad Ali: a silkscreen by Andy Warhol

Muhammad Ali: oil painting by Henry C. Casselli, Jr.

Michael Jackson: synthetic polymer and silkscreen by Andy Warhol

Joe Louis: oil painting by Betsy Graves Reyneau

Oscar Robinson: February 16, 1961 Time Magazine cover by Russell Hoban

Bobby Hull: March 1, 1968 Time Magazine cover by Leroy Neiman

Arthur Ashe: acrylic on canvas by Louis Briel

L.L. Cool J: oil painting by Kehinde Wiley

Katherine Hepburn: oil painting by Everett Raymond Kinstler

In addition to this portrait of Katherine Hepburn, her unprecedented four Best Actress Academy Awards are now part of the National Portrait Gallery's permanent exhibition...

From left to right are her Academy Award for Morning Glory in 1933. Interestingly, that particular statue was the very first to be referred to by a Hollywood reporter as an Oscar. She also won in 1967 for Guess Who's Coming Dinner, the very next year for 1968's The Lion in Winter and 1981's On Golden Pond. Nearly 50 years went by between her first and last award. Note how different each statue is from the others.

The National Portrait Gallery presents the wonderful diversity of individuals who have left, and are leaving, their mark on our country and our culture. As a Smithsonian Museum, admission is always FREE at the National Portrait Gallery. Click here to visit the National Portrait Gallery's website. 

All photos in this blog post were taken by my husband and me during our visit in September, 2013.




On its website the National Portrait Gallery states the museum "...tells the history of America through individuals who have shaped its culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story."

Here are some of those people...

Samuel Clemens: Who hasn't read the classic stories he wrote under his pen name Mark Twain?

Henry Clay Frick (along with his daughter, Helen): He made his fortune supplying coke for steel manufacturing; he then partnered with Andrew Carnegie to form the world's largest steel company. At his death he donated his extensive collection of European paintings to create the celebrated Frick Collection in New York City.

Andrew Carnegie: He sold his Carnegie Steel Company to J.P. Morgan which created U.S. Steel. Having built one of the world's largest fortunes, Carnegie gave away over $350 million during his lifetime, 90% of his fortune: He stated, "The individual who amasses great wealth must in the end apply his fortune for the benefit of all."


Daniel Boone: Boone spent his life pushing westward, always dissatisfied with where he was. Eventually he ended up in Kentucky, opening that area for white settlement. One reason Boone kept moving was that when the government caught up with him on the trail he had blazed, it usually voided his land claims and expelled him. Although the reality of Boone's career did not embody the romantic legend others applied to it, the persistence of Boone as a symbol indicates how strongly the idea of a lone frontiersman shaped American history.

Dave Crockett: Unlike Daniel Boone, Crockett created a totally different image of the frontiersman: a jocular, colorful type who liked tall tales and whiskey. Crockett was a soldier, state representative from Tennessee, an author and a road showman. He is however most noted for fighting, and dying, in the Battle of Alamo.

Ulysses S. Grant: Not interested in the military, Grant only entered West Point to receive an education. Unsuccessful in business ventures, he reentered the military at the beginning of the Civil War. Eventually President Lincoln made him commander of the entire Union Army. He was elected to two terms as president.

The National Portrait Gallery presents the wonderful diversity of individuals who have left, and are leaving, their mark on our country and our culture. In my next blog post I'll show you a few more.

Admission is always FREE at the National Portrait Gallery. Click here to visit the National Portrait Gallery's website. 

All photos in this blog post were taken by me during my visit in September, 2013.



To mark the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, the National Portrait Gallery is holding an exhibition titled One Life: Martin Luther King, Jr. through June 1, 2014.

The exhibition's curator: "...In his thirteen years of public life as an advocate for civil rights, economic opportunity, and world peace, King motivated others not only by communicating his vision for a brighter future but by acting boldly to challenge injustice. Despite enormous odds and the ever-present risk of failure, King led by example, exhibiting courage and character as he maintained his steadfast commitment to nonviolent resistance and direct action."

Along with memorabilia from the National Portrait Gallery collection, the one-room exhibition contains historic photographs tracing the trajectory of King's career.

Martin Luther King Jr. with Coretta Scott King and their daughter Yolanda on the steps of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1956.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy ride the first integrated bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1956.
King after being arrested in Albany, Georgia in July, 1962 for peaceful demonstrations outside the local city hall. Although sentenced to 45 days in jail, the local sheriff ordered his release after 3 days.
King watches as President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1964. He received one of the pens used to sign the bill.

Martin Luther King receives the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.

Martin Luther King along with Dr. Benjamin Spock (left) in an anti-Vietnam march in NYC in 1967.

The National Portrait Gallery tells the stories of America through the individuals who have shaped U.S. culture through the visual arts, performing arts, and new media.

The National Portrait Gallery is conveniently located at Eighth and F Streets NW, in Washington D.C., above the Gallery Place–Chinatown Metrorail station (red, yellow, and green lines).

Open: 11:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily. Closed Christmas Day.

Admission is always FREE at the National Portrait Gallery.

For more information about the Martin Luther King exhibition, click here.

Click here to visit the National Portrait Gallery's website.

All photos in this blog post were taken by my husband during our visit in September, 2013.



He was born in Iowa in 1891, and he died in Iowa in 1942. He taught painting at the University of Iowa. So it is not surprising that the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa would have several of Grant Wood's paintings as part of its permanent collection.

Of course, Grant Wood is most famous for his painting American Gothic which hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Grant Wood was one of the three founding members of the American realist art movement called Regionalism. Regionalism, to Grant Wood, was a simple concept: artists should paint what is around them, what they know and what they see.

Grant Wood’s paintings show the love he had for his native Iowa...

Iowa Cornfield (1941)
This late study draws attention to the importance of the land in Iowa.

Study for Stone City (1930)
Wood's idyllic scene of a small town nestled amidst a sprawling landscape of hills and valleys shows no sign of the future problems the once thriving boom town would incur at the turn of the century when cement production made the local limestone industry obsolete.
Study for Fall Plowing (1931)

Self-portrait (1932-1941)
Showing his commitment to Regionalism, Wood cast himself as an Iowa farmer against a backdrop of rolling farmland. The familiar Iowa landmark, the windmill, frames his face. The way he placed himself in the front of this painting shows the influence of Old Flemish Masters whom Wood greatly admired.

For more information on the Figge Art Museum click here.

All photos in this blog post were taken by me during my visit in October, 2013.



The Figge is a small, but wonderful art museum located in Davenport, Iowa, one block from the mighty Mississippi River.

There were paintings by artists that I was familiar with...

Flower Vase on a Table (1942) by Pablo Picasso

Still Life with Fruit (1920-1922) by Georges Braque

Note the grains of sand in the paint...

Carnival (1943) by Max Beckmann

According to his diary, Beckmann painted this triptych while in exile in Amsterdam. If you have followed my blog, you will remember that as a Jew, Beckman's art was considered degenerate by Adolf Hitler. Beckmann lost his teaching position and many of his paintings were confiscated.

Spanish Woman with Mantilla (1910) by Alexej von Jawlensky

Although Russian by birth, Jawlensky lived for several years in Germany; he was an acquaintance of Expressionist painters Gabriele Münter and Emil Nolde, and Wassily Kandinsky and Henri Matisse.

The Blue Horse (1926-1928) by Marc Chagal

Marc Chagall is considered the pioneer of Modernism. He is known for using vibrant, saturated colors applied in complex layers.

Street in Paris, Pink Sky (1909) by Lyonel Feininger

Although American-born, Feininger lived in Germany and was associated with many of the German Expressionist groups. Unfortunately he also suffered the same fate as other Expressionist artists during the Nazi years, and was forced to return to the United States.

Black Hat on a Yellow Chair (1952) by Fernand Lèger

A card-carrying member of the Communist Party, Lèger was influenced by Cubism and utilized mechanical-like forms and primary colors.

A Drop of Dew Falling from the Wing of a Bird Awakens Rosalie Asleep in the Shade of a Cobweb (1939) by Joan MiróYes, that is the entire title of this painting.

All of these paintings are part of a current exhibition at the Figge entitled A Legacy for Iowa. The exhibition features some of the most important works of art from the University of Iowa Art Museum. You can read more here.

All photos in this blog post were taken by me during my visit to the Figge Art Museum in October, 2013.



On the annual Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dea") celebration, it is believed that the souls of those who have died return to visit the living. It is a Mexican holiday that has been celebrated for centuries, tracing back to a similar ritual observed by the Aztecs. It is now celebrated in certain parts of the U.S. on November 1 and 2, and its underlying theme for this holiday is that it is a time of great celebration, not mourning...and it's not the Latino equivalent of Halloween.

The small, but wonderful Figge Art Museum featured a superb exhibition of more than 30 hand-made catrinas, skeleton figures made out of clay or paper mâché. Instead of honoring specific people, most of the catrinas honor themes.

Here are my favorites:

All of the catrinas were made at the Casa Guanajuarto Quad Cities. You can read about their organization here.

To read more about the terrific Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, click here.

All photos in this blog post were taken by me during my visit to the Figge Art Museum in October, 2013.