Smithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian Magazine March 2020

Smithsonian Magazine takes you on a journey through history, science, world culture and technology with breathtaking images from around the world.

United States
Smithsonian Institute
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11 Números

en este número

2 min.

“Maya Angelou’s gift was her willingness to open her heart.” Amazon Adventure The first thought that came to me while reading “The Road to Ruin?” (January/February 2020) was the arrogance of the modern urban resident. How many individuals living in first-world cities will read about logging in the Amazon and scream that this destruction must stop immediately? They refuse to acknowledge that at one time, all metropolitan areas were untouched by humans and contained trees as old as those in the Amazon. —WC Kirby | Granite Falls, North Carolina Eyes to the Skies “The Navigator” (January/February 2020) is a beautifully written, evocative report that brought tears to my eyes and reminded me that war is senseless, that those least responsible for its horrors suffer just as much, if not more, than the perpetrators. Thank you…

4 min.
show of patriotism

FOR SOMEONE who didn’t get serious about painting until her 70s, Anna Mary Robertson Moses managed a singular artistic career. She made her debut in New York City’s highly competitive art scene at the age of 80 with a 1940 gallery exhibition, “What a Farmwife Painted.” Later that year she grabbed headlines when she participated in the Thanksgiving Festival at Gimbels department store in Manhattan. She looked back on that moment in Grandma Moses Goes to the Big City, a 1946 painting of the lush countryside near her home in Eagle Bridge, New York. The Smithsonian American Art Museum recently acquired the painting. By the end of the decade, a cottage industry of greeting cards, upholstery and decorative china bearing reproductions of her idyllic country scenes had made Moses a national…

1 min.
canceled culture

YASUO KUNIYOSHI, CIRCUS GIRL RESTING, 1925 Today one of the most celebrated works in Kuniyoshi’s oeuvre, this stylized portrait eschews conventional female beauty, famously provoking President Harry Truman to declare, “If that’s art, I’m a Hottentot.” GEORGIA O’KEEFFE COS COB, 1926 American art critics were appalled to see Congress reject even O’Keeffe’s widely beloved botanicals; the critic Edward Alden Jewell warned the reaction would “lead to disastrous consequences unless checked in time.” BEN SHAHN HUNGER, 1946 Shahn’s sympathetic rendering of American poverty in this painting made it the target of critics in Congress and beyond, who were irate to see art that deviated from the mythology that the nation was a land of plenty. ROMARE BEARDEN AT FIVE IN THE AFTERNOON, 1946 Abstract styles such as Bearden’s caused Republican Representative George Dondero to…

1 min.
better late

BEING AN ISLAND is something strong,” says the artist Zilia Sánchez, a singular, if long overlooked talent. “It’s not about being self-centered. The things I want to do, I want to do them by myself.” The 93-year-old’s first museum retrospective, “Soy Isla” (or “I Am an Island”), on view through this month at El Museo del Barrio in Manhattan, explores island life both literal and figurative. Born in Cuba, Sánchez lived for a time in New York City, then moved to Puerto Rico in 1971. Despite wide acclaim there, she was in her late 80s before the international art world began to notice her undulating three-dimensional canvases, which she shapes over wooden armatures to suggest the female form, otherworldly landscapes and the shifting sea. Sánchez lost much of her work…

8 min.
beauty and the brand

ON AN APRIL AFTERNOON in 1897, thousands of women packed the Boston Theatre to see the nation’s most beguiling female entrepreneur, a 45-year-old former homemaker whose talent for personal branding would rival that of any Instagram celebrity today. She called herself Madame Yale. Over the course of several hours and multiple outfit changes, she preached her “Religion of Beauty,” regaling the audience with tales of history’s most beautiful women, a group that included Helen of Troy, the Roman goddess Diana and, apparently, Madame Yale. The sermon was her 11th public appearance in Boston in recent years, and it also covered the various lotions and potions—products that Yale just happened to sell—that she said had transformed her from a sallow, fat, exhausted woman into the beauty who stood on stage: her tall,…

1 min.
tonic boom

1849-1930 OTC NARCOTIC It’s estimated that thousands of children died after taking this morphine-laden syrup. It wasn’t removed from shelves until 1930. 1807-37 HEALTHY PROFIT Thomas W. Dyott was the nation’s first patent-medicine baron. In three decades he amassed a quarter-million-dollar fortune from the sale of his elixirs and lozenges. 1862 REGULAR INCOME Benjamin Brandreth spent around $100,000 annually advertising his Vegetable Universal Pills, marketed primarily as laxatives; from 1862 to 1883, his gross income surpassed $600,000 a year. 1875 LONG LASTING Lydia E. Pinkham introduced her Vegetable Compound, made with root and seed extracts and alcohol, for “female complaints.” A version of the herbal tonic is still produced today by Numark Brands. 1899 PRINTING MONEY The mogul F.J. Cheney estimated that newspapers carrying ads for patent medicines, including his, made some $20 million annually. In 1911, the government accused him of “misbranding” products.…