Susan Stamberg en As Portraits Became Passé, These Artists Redefined 'Face Value' "Walk softly and carry a big fish" was one curator's take on a humorous self-portrait of a tall woman, holding an enormous yellow fish and a paintbrush, with a black cat lurking below.<p>Bay area artist Joan Brown's image is the first thing you see at a new National Portrait Gallery exhibition called <a href="" target="_blank">"Face Value: Portraiture in the Age of Abstraction."</a> Brown's painting, like so many in this Smithsonian show, is powerful and funny.<p>In a nearby sculpture, Hugh Hefner — the Playboy pooh-bah — holds a painted pipe in one han Wed, 25 Jun 2014 22:41:37 +0000 Susan Stamberg 63280 at Impressionists With Benefits? The Painting Partnership Of Degas And Cassatt In her novel <em>I Always Loved You</em>, author Robin Oliveira imagines a passionate scene between Edgar Degas — a French artist known for his paintings of dancers — and Mary Cassatt — an American painter known for her scenes of family life. Mon, 16 Jun 2014 22:16:43 +0000 Susan Stamberg 62707 at One Collector's Plan To Save Realistic Art Was Anything But Abstract Plenty of collectors want to donate artworks to museums, but the museums don't always welcome them with open arms. "We say 'no thanks' 19 times out of 20," says Betsy Broun, director at the American Art Museum. Sometimes the works aren't museum-quality, other times they don't fit with the museums' philosophy.<p>But in 1986, representatives from the Sara Roby Foundation called the Smithsonian with an offer it couldn't refuse: paintings by Edward Hopper, Raphael Soyer, Reginald Marsh and many more. Sun, 25 May 2014 17:11:58 +0000 Susan Stamberg 61324 at The Public School Where The Duke Lives On Duke Ellington didn't consider himself a jazz musician.<p>He said he was a musician who played jazz. And what a musician: pianist, bandleader, composer of more than 1,000 songs including standards like "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," "Satin Doll" and "Sophisticated Lady."<p>Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was born on this date 115 years ago in Washington, D.C. And it may just be that Ellington lives on most profoundly, every day, at a public arts high school that bears his name. Tue, 29 Apr 2014 22:18:28 +0000 Susan Stamberg 59675 at Denied A Stage, She Sang For A Nation <p></p> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 23:29:09 +0000 Susan Stamberg 58142 at Girls Are Taught To 'Think Pink,' But That Wasn't Always So With sleet, snow and freezing temperatures extending through March, the National Cherry Blossom Festival — which recently kicked off in Washington, D.C. — is decidedly less pink this year. In a few weeks the Tidal Basin will be ringed by rosy, pink blossoms, but until then, we traveled north to Boston, where a show at the Museum of Fine Arts called "<a href="" target="_blank">Think Pink</a>" explores the history and social impact of the color.<p>Pink has always been with us, though it was not always as gender-entrenched as it is today. Tue, 01 Apr 2014 21:42:34 +0000 Susan Stamberg 57512 at Japanese Tea Ritual Turned 15th Century 'Tupperware' Into Art Eight hundred years ago, tea was rare in Japan. It arrived from China in simple, ceramic storage jars. Chinese ceramists churned these jars out with little care or attention; they stuffed tea leaves into them and shipped them off.<p>The jars were "the Chinese version of Tupperware," says <a href="">Andrew Watsky</a>, a professor of Japanese art history at Princeton.<p>But once the workaday storage jugs reached Japan, they became objects of aesthetic contemplation and, often, reverence. Wed, 19 Mar 2014 03:30:52 +0000 Susan Stamberg 56473 at Re-Released Recordings Reveal Literary Titans In Their Youth You can listen to plenty of actors performing the works of William Shakespeare. But imagine if you could hear the voice of the young playwright himself — or the older one, for that matter — reading his own writing aloud.<p>Well, we can't take you back that far. But in the early 1960s, when recorded readings by authors were rare, a young couple in Boston decided to be literary audio pioneers.<p>The idea was hatched in 1962. Lynne Sharon Schwartz, who is a respected novelist today,<strong> </strong>was working on a magazine at the time. Mon, 17 Mar 2014 20:49:40 +0000 Susan Stamberg 56167 at Keen Eyes, Uncanny Instincts Keep Films In Sharp Focus You won't believe it — I didn't — but the person responsible for keeping each and every shot of a movie in focus never looks through a camera lens.<p>"No," says focus puller Baird Steptoe. "We do not look through the camera at all."<p>Steptoe has worked as a first assistant cameraman on films from <em>The Sixth Sense</em> to <em>Thor</em> to last year's <em>Grownups Two.</em> He says he's learned to judge distances — precise distances — with his naked eye alone.<p>"I mean, I can tell you roughly from you to me right now," he says. "I would say about 2-11."<p>Two feet 11 inches, that is. Sun, 16 Mar 2014 21:25:41 +0000 Susan Stamberg 56010 at 'Clap!' On Set, The Signature Sound Of The Slate More than the roar of the MGM lion, more than the 20th Century Fox fanfare, the iconic sound of moviemaking is the sharp clap of a slate — although film folks have a language of their own to describe it.<p>"Miki's hitting the sticks on this one," says assistant cameraman Larry Nielsen, pointing to <em>his </em>assistant.<p>Take after take, day after day, some Miki or other on a movie set "hits the sticks" — to synchronize the sound with the pictures. In the silent-film days, it wasn't an issue. Sun, 16 Mar 2014 20:37:14 +0000 Susan Stamberg 55968 at