Two centuries apart, American artists John Singleton Copley and Kerry James Marshall pushed the boundaries of history painting.
A special installation brings together three monumental paintings for a thought-provoking dialogue: Copley’s 18th-century canvas Watson and the Shark and Marshall’s two 20th-century works Great America and Voyager. These paintings—all maritime-themed—address the violent history of the transatlantic slave trade and the Middle Passage, the forced journey of enslaved people across the Atlantic. All three works are part of the National Gallery of Art collection, but this is a rare chance to experience them together in the same exhibition space, in conversation. Compare how Marshall and Copley skillfully wove historical and contemporary events together with cultural, mythological, and spiritual allusions. Take a closer look at these iconic paintings and explore a selection of Marshall's related drawings for a glimpse into his process. This is the second installation in our Conversations series, which connects works in our collection from our past and present to reveal how artists help us understand our place in history.