Psychobiography with Dr. Gail Saltz at the 92Y:

On Van Gogh
Steven Naifeh

Now, drawing on Van Gogh’s own thoughtful and often profound comments about the painters he venerated, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Naifeh gives a gripping account of the artist’s deep engagement with their work. We see Van Gogh’s gradual discovery of the subjects he would make famous, from wheat fields to sunflowers. We watch him experimenting with the loose brushwork and bright colors used by Édouard Manet, studying the Pointillist dots used by Georges Seurat, and emulating the powerful depictions of the peasant farmers painted by Jean-François Millet, all vividly illustrated in nearly three hundred full-color images of works by Van Gogh and a variety of other major artists, including Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, positioned side by side.

Thanks to the vast correspondence from Van Gogh to his beloved brother, Theo, Naifeh is able to reconstruct Van Gogh’s artistic world from within. Join him for a lecture on the artist followed by a conversation with psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr. Gail Saltz regarding the artists psyche and its effect on his paintings.

On Joseph McCarthy
Larry Tye

A uniquely American strain of demagoguery has pulsed through the nation’s veins from its founding days—and few people represent that more succinctly than Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Today, every schoolchild in America is introduced to Joe McCarthy, but generally as a caricature. Generations more intimate with his work, recall the senator mainly with catch phrases like witch hunter. While those who worked in tandem with him, extolled the precedents he set in government as all-knowing and seeing for the greater good of the people. Somewhere between that saint and sinner lies the real man. Author Larry Tye got the first-ever access to McCarthy’s personal and professional papers, medical and military records, love letters, wartime diaries, and other files that had been under lock and key for half a century. Examining this fresh evidence of McCarthy’s official excesses, and of his surprising behind-the-scenes humanity, makes him more authentic, if also more confounding. He was in fact more insecure than we portrayed publicly, more undone by his boozing, more embracing of friends and avenging of foes, and more sinister. The newly-disclosed records shave away the myths and illuminate how the junior senator from Grand Chute rose to become powerful enough not just to intimidate Dwight Eisenhower, our most popular postwar president, but to provoke senators and others to take their own lives.

Join Gail Saltz and author of Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy, Larry Tye, in investigating one of the rise of one of the most reviled figures in U.S. history.

On Frank Lloyd Wright
Paul Hendrickson

Frank Lloyd Wright has long been known as a rank egotist who held in contempt almost everything aside from his own genius.

Harder to detect, but no less real, is a Wright who fully understood, and suffered from, the choices he made. In delving into these choices, neglected aspects of his story are revealed including the eerie role of fires in his life; how he was haunted by his father; the complexities of his close, and perhaps romantic, relationship with friend and early mentor Cecil Corwin; and the connection between the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 and the murder of his mistress, her two children, and four others at his beloved Wisconsin home.

Join Gail Saltz and University of Pennsylvania Professor and author of Plagued by Fire: The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Hendrickson in conversation for a fresh, deep, and more human understanding of the premier American architect.

On Albert Einstein
Michael Gordin

In the spring of 1911, Albert Einstein moved with his wife and two sons to Prague, the capital of Bohemia, where he accepted a post as a professor of theoretical physics.

Though he intended to make Prague his home, he lived there for just sixteen months, an interlude that his biographies typically dismiss as a brief and inconsequential episode.

It was here that his marriage unraveled, where he first began thinking seriously about his Jewish identity, and where he embarked on the project of general relativity. Prague was also where he formed lasting friendships with novelist Max Brod, Zionist intellectual Hugo Bergmann, physicist Philipp Frank, and other important figures.

Join Gail Saltz and author of Einstein in Bohemia, Michael Gordin in investigating this important time in the life of this gifted young scientist who left his mark on the science, literature, and politics of Prague.

On Denis Diderot
Andrew S. Curran

Denis Diderot is often associated with the decades-long battle to bring the world’s first comprehensive Encyclopédie into existence. But his most daring writing took place in the shadows. In this thematically organized biography, Andrew S. Curran vividly describes Diderot’s tormented relationship with Rousseau, his curious correspondence with Voltaire, his passionate affairs, and his often iconoclastic stands on art, theater, morality, politics, and religion. Curran highlights how Diderot’s personal turmoil was an essential part of his genius and his ability to flout taboos, dogma, and convention.

On Chopin
Dr. Alan Walker

Walker is author of Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times, the most comprehensive biography of the great Polish composer to appear in English. Based on ten years of research and a vast cache of primary sources located in archives in Warsaw, Paris, London, New York and Washington, D.C., this corrective biography dispels many myths and legends that continue to surround Chopin. From Chopin’s childhood and youth in Poland to his romantic life with George Sand, with whom he lived for nine years, Walker, along with Dr. Saltz, provides an intimate look into a dramatic life

On Renoir
Barbara Ehrlich White

Renoir: An Intimate Biography reveals the life, work and character of one of the most intriguing of the Impressionists. Renoir became hugely popular for his work, which was optimistic, even joyful, despite the great obstacles Renoir faced: thirty years of poverty followed by thirty years of progressive paralysis of his fingers. Close friends who contributed money, contacts and companionship enabled him to overcome these challenges to create more than 4,000 paintings. Renoir had intimate relationships with fellow artists (Caillebotte, Cezanne, Monet and Morisot), with his dealers (Durand-Ruel, Bernheim and Vollard) and with his models (Lise, Aline, Gabrielle and Dedee).

Ehrlich White has made research on Renoir her life’s work. Since 1961, she has studied more than 3,000 letters relating to Renoir, and has gained unique insight into his personality and character. Her biography challenges common misconceptions surrounding Renoir’s reputation and provides an unparalleled and intimate portrait of this complex artist through images of his own iconic paintings, his own words and the words of his contemporaries.

On Muhammad Ali
Jonathan Eig

Muhammad Ali was one of the 20th century’s most fantastic and famous figures. Jonathan Eig radically reshapes our understanding of the complicated man. Eig, who had access to key people in Ali’s life, including his three surviving wives and his managers, conducted over 500 interviews and uncovered previously unreleased FBI and Justice Department files. He sheds important new light on Ali’s politics, religion, personal life and neurological condition, illustrating a story about America, race, a brutal sport and a courageous man who shook up the world.

On Alexander Hamilton
Richard Sylla

On Henry David Thoreau
Laura Dassow Walls

“Walden. Yesterday I came here to live.” That entry from the journal of Henry David Thoreau, and the intellectual journey it began, would by themselves be enough to place Thoreau in the American pantheon. His attempt to “live deliberately” in a small woods at the edge of his hometown of Concord has been a touchstone for individualists and seekers since the publication of Walden in 1854.

But there was much more to Thoreau than his brief experiment in living at Walden Pond. A member of the vibrant intellectual circle centered on his neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson, he was also an ardent naturalist, a manual laborer and inventor, a radical political activist, and more. Laura Dassow Walls talks with Dr. Saltz about Thoreau’s quixotic, mischievous and many-sided nature. From the young man shattered by the sudden death of his brother to his death in 1862, at only forty-four years of age, meet the complex the man whose belief in human freedom and the value of labor made him an uncompromising abolitionist and the solitary walker who found society in nature.

On Ulysses S. Grant
Ron White

In his time, Ulysses S. Grant was routinely grouped with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in the “Trinity of Great American Leaders.” But the battlefield commander–turned–commander-in-chief fell out of favor in the twentieth century. In American Ulysses, author Ronald C. White argues that we need to once more revise our estimates of him in the twenty-first. Come hear about White’s seven years of research with primary documents — some of them never examined by previous Grant scholars — and the assemblage of the Grant biography of our time.

On Gorbachev: His Life and Times
William Taubman

Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Taubman talks with Dr. Gail Saltz about the life and times of Mikhail Gorbachev — how the peasant boy became the Soviet system’s gravedigger; how he clambered to the top of a system designed to keep people like him down; how he found common ground with America’s arch-conservative president Ronald Reagan, and how he permitted the USSR and its East European empire to break apart without using force to preserve them.

Taubman and Saltz discuss the many sides of Gorbachev’s unique character that, by Gorbachev’s own admission, made him “difficult to understand.” Was he in fact a truly great leader, or was he brought low in the end by his own shortcomings, as well as by the unyielding forces he faced?|

The Power of Different
Dr. Gail Saltz, Steve Silberman, Dr. Christopher Ramey, and Ira Flatow

Why are so many of the most extraordinary achievers in various fields also those with a mental health issue or learning difference? A panel of experts discuss the connection between ability, creativity and minds that are wired differently as well as what adults, parents and children can do to find and enhance their strengths while treating their weaknesses.

On Georgia O’Keeffe
Laurie Lisle
Wed, Oct 19, 2016, 12 pm

Georgia O’Keeffe’s vivid visual vocabulary — her sensuous flowers, bleached bones against red sky and earth — had a stunning, profound and lasting influence on American art in this century, but her personal mystique is as intriguing and enduring as her bold, brilliant canvases.

Dr. Saltz sits with Laurie Lisle, author of Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe, to discuss the legend’s exceptional life.

On Diane Arbus
Arthur Lubow
Mon, Nov 7, 2016, 12 pm

Diane Arbus was one of the most influential and important photographers of the twentieth century – a visionary who revolutionized photography and altered the course of contemporary art with her striking, now iconic images.

It is impossible to understand the transfixing power of Arbus’s photographs without understanding her life story. Dr. Gail Saltz talks with Arthur Lubow, whose biography of Arbus, Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer, brings to life a strong-minded child of unnerving originality who grew into a formidable artist and forged an intimacy with her subjects that has inspired generations of artists. Lubow has conducted exclusive interviews with Arbus’s friends, lovers and colleagues, and read previously unknown letters, and he brings his own profound critical understanding of photography, to explore Arbus’s unique perspective.

On John Quincy Adams
Peter Traub
Mon, Dec. 5, 2016, 12 pm

John Quincy Adams was the last of his kind — a Puritan from the age of the Founders who despised party and compromise, yet dedicated himself to politics and government — and literally died in office, in the midst of a passionate debate.

A brilliant ambassador and secretary of state, he was a frustrated president at a historic turning point in American politics. Dr. Gail Saltz talks with scholar and journalist James Traub, author of John Quincy Adams: Militant Spirit, to uncover the life and morals of a diplomat and president whose ideas remain with us today.

Genius Week at 92Y

On the 7th Day : Spiritual Genius and the Sabbath
The biblical story of the world’s creation builds rest and reflection into the very architecture of existence. As human beings created in God’s image, we, too, set aside the 7th day each week to connect with the divine, and to rediscover the divine spark within ourselves—to tap into the creative power we have been imbued with to transform our lives and to change the world. By liberating us from our daily routine, and giving us the freedom to focus on what matters most, the Shabbat is a day to develop the capacity for genius that twentieth century philosopher and theologian Martin Buber attributed to spiritual trailblazers, like Moses and Maimonides, “to unite the way of earth with that of heaven.” Join Rabbi Jen E. Krause in conversation with relationship & communications expert Esther Perel, best-selling author & entrepreneur Michael Ellsberg, and author, psychiatrist and “Today Show” contributor Gail Saltz as we explore the spiritual genius that dwells within us all.

The Genius Debate: Identifying the Origins of Genius
What is the origin of genius? Does genius depend more on talent or deliberate practice? What is talent, anyway? Is quality of practice more important than sheer quantity of effort? What other factors are important in the cultivation of genius?

The genius debate with David Shenk, psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz and cognitive scientists Scott Barry Kaufman, Zach Hambrick and Rex Jung.

Psychobiography with Dr. Gail Saltz at the 92Y:

Psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, columnist and best-selling author and television commentator Dr. Gail Saltz moderates this new series: A look inside the minds of larger-than-life figures of the 20th century, examining the psychological factors that shaped them.

On the Genius of Theodore Roosevelt
Eric Burns
Mon, Mar 7, 2016, 12 pm

How does looking at Theodore Roosevelt’s relationship with his favorite son, Quentin, help us understand Roosevelt’s genius?

Eric Burns, former NBC News and “Today” show correspondent, discusses insights from his new book, The Golden Lad, with Gail Saltz. Despite all of Roosevelt’s myriad accomplishments, the cause Roosevelt championed the hardest—America’s entry into WWI—was the one that divided and tormented him. Through the lens of his relationship with his son, we’ll gain deeper insights into the mind and motivations of one of America’s great geniuses.

On Frank Sinatra
David Lehman
Mon, Feb 22, 2016, 12 pm

Frank Sinatra left an enduring legacy that is still treasured by legions of fans today.

The acclaimed poet and critic David Lehman discusses the man, his music and his larger-than-life story with 
psychologist Gail Saltz, and shares insights from his new book, Sinatra’s Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World.

On Johannes Brahms
Jan Swafford
Mon, Dec 14, 2015, 12 pm

Johannes Brahms is one of history’s most influential composers.

But there’s a little-known side to Brahms: the boy who played piano in beer halls among prostitutes and drunken sailors, the fiercely self-protective man who thwarted future biographers by burning papers, scores and notebooks late in his life. Renowned music composer and author Jan Swafford offers richly expanded perspectives.

On Charles Darwin
David Kohn

Did you know that for 21 years Darwin kept his theory of evolution secret? Learn more about this brilliant observer of nature and how he transformed our understanding of the living world, with David Kohn, the founder and director of the Darwin Manuscripts Project at the American Museum of Natural History, and Dr. Gail Saltz, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, columnist, bestselling author and television commentator.

On Sigmund Freud
George Makari, M.D.

Sigmund Freud: He was the founding father of psychoanalysis, the basis for all talk therapies. But what about the mind of the man himself? Who was Sigmund Freud? What enabled him to create an entirely new field of thought? And what psychological problems did the man himself suffer? A look at the mind and life of the man who gave us “study of the mind”.

George Makari, M.D., is director of the DeWitt Wallace Institute for the History of Psychiatry, professor of psychiatry at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, professor of psychiatry at Rockefeller University, and a faculty member of Columbia University’s Psychoanalytic Center. He is the author of Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis.

On Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln
Catherine Clinton
University of Belfast, Professor of US History

The Lincolns: Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, The 16th president of the United States and his first lady had a tumultuous yet vital relationship. Both struggled with mental health problems and terrible loss. We will explore the psychological influences that effected President and Mrs. Lincoln as he led the United States through its greatest constitutional, military and moral crises- the Civil War. What motivated Lincoln to preserve the Union while ending slavery and promoting economic and financial modernization and what of the role of Mary Todd?

Catherine Clinton came to Queen’s in 2006, having previously taught at Union College, Brandeis University and at Harvard University — in both the Department of African American Studies and the Department of History. She has recently stepped down from the executive council of the Society of American Historians and continues to serve on the Advisory Committee to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and her biography, Mrs Lincoln: a life was published in 2009. Her biography of Harriet Tubman was named one of the best non-fiction books of 2004 by the Christian Science Monitor and the Chicago Tribune. She now serves on the Advisory Council of Civil War History, of Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC, and Civil War Times. She is a member of the Advisory Board for the Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission and in 2011, she is the editor of the Penguin Classic, Mary Chestnut’s Diary.

On Albert Einstein
Michael Shara PhD

 Einstein: An exploration of the mind of the man whose name has become synonymous with Genius. The father of modern physics, he struggled in early school years. What strengths led to his multiple discoveries? What weaknesses did he have to overcome both professionally and personally?

Astrophysicist Michael Shara PhD  is curator and chair of the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History. His research interests include the structure and evolution of novae and supernovae, collisions between stars, and the nature of stellar populations in star clusters and galaxies. He curated the Einstein exhibit at AMNH.

On Pablo Picasso
Gertje R. Utley, Ph. D.

Picasso: A look inside the mind of Pablo Picasso, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century who revolutionized painting, sculpture, printmaking and ceramics,  as a way of understanding his artistic genius, vast contributions and fascinating life

Gertje R. Utley is an independent scholar in art history.

She is the author of Picasso: the Communist Years (Yale University Press, 2000), and more recently the co-editor and co-author of A Fine Regard: Essays in Honor of Kirk Varnedoe (Ashgate, 2008), and curator of an exhibition on the influence of Velázquez on contemporary art at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona (Olvidando a Velázquez: Las Meninas, exh. cat., Picasso Museum, Barcelona, Spain, 2008). She has contributed articles on Picasso, Egon Schiele, and on contemporary art to various art books and exhibition catalogues (Picasso and the Spanish Tradition, Yale 1996; Picasso and the War: 1937-1945, exhibition cat. Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, and Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1998/9; Picasso: War and Peace, Picasso Museum, Barcelona,  2004).

Utley has lectured at major museums in New York, San Francisco, Berlin, Istanbul, Barcelona and at the Sorbonne in Paris. In addition to presentations on Picasso and Picasso’s politics, she has spoken on a wide variety of topics that include “Expressing the Spiritual in a Secular Age,” “The Glory that Was Paris,” “World War I and the Painters,” and “The Gilded Age in New York.”

On Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  (Available on video >>)
Christoph Wolff

One of the most prolific and influential composers of the Classical era, Mozart was a child prodigy who struggled for recognition and control over his own destiny. His father was a hugely influential figure and a source of conflict. Explore the gift and the drive of this masterful composer who died so young.

Christoph Wolff  is the Adams University Research Professor at Harvard University and teaches at the Juilliard School. He has written extensively on music from the 15th through 20th centuries, especially on Bach and Mozart. He is the author of Mozart at the Gateway to His Fortune: Serving the Emperor, 1788-1791.

On Harry Houdini (Available on video >>)
Brooke Kamin Rapaport

The son of a Rabbi, Harry Houdini was one of the most famous magicians, illusionists and escape artists in the world. What drove this self-taught man? What was the meaning of disappearing and reappearing? Why was he consumed with debunking the spiritualist movement?

Brooke Kamin Rapaport is an independent curator and writer. As guest curator at the Jewish Museum in New York, she organized Houdini: Art and Magic, and The Sculpture of Louise Nevelson: Constructing A Legend.

On Vincent Van Gogh (Available on video >>)
Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith

Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, authors of Van Gogh: The Life, graduated from the Harvard Law School in 1977. Mr. Naifeh did his undergraduate work in art history at Princeton and his graduate work in art history at Harvard. Mr. Smith did his graduate work in education at Harvard. The two men have written eighteen books, including five New York Times bestsellers. Their Jackson Pollock: An American Saga won the Pulitzer Prize in 1991. It was also a finalist for the National Book Award, the basis of the Academy-Award winning film Pollock, and the inspiration for John Updike’s novel, Seek My Face. They serve as Chairmen of the Juilliard-in-Aiken Arts Festival.

On Ernest Hemingway (Available on video >>)
Susan F. Beegel

Susan F. Beegel holds a PhD from Yale University and is an Adjunct Associate Professor of English at the University of Idaho. This fall she will celebrate her twentieth year as editor of The Hemingway Review, a scholarly journal on the life and work of Ernest Hemingway. A joint publication of the Hemingway Society and the University of Idaho, the journal circulates to individual scholars and to college, university, and public libraries around the world. Beegel is the author or editor of four books (on Hemingway’s craft and his short fiction, as well as on Steinbeck and the environment and Nantucket’s literary tradition)–and has published more than 55 articles on aspects of American literature and history.

On Howard Hughes  (Available on video >>)
James B. Steele

James B. Steele is a contributing editor for Vanity Fair and one of the nation’s most honored and widely acclaimed investigative journalists. He and his reporting colleague, Donald L. Barlett, have been called “almost certainly the best team in the history of investigative journalism” by the American Journalism Review. Recipients of virtually every major national journalism award including two Pulitzer Prizes and two National Magazine Awards, Barlett and Steele have worked together for four decades, first at The Philadelphia Inquirer, then at Time magazine and now at Vanity Fair. Steele is a coauthor with Barlett of seven books, including Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness, which has been continuously in print since published in 1979. Of the Hughes biography, The New York Times Sunday Book Review called it “the first fully documented cradle-to-grave account of a unique American life.”ealthier, more fulfilling lives.

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