Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Close up of a marble sculpture, National Gallery of Art

In 1937, a joint resolution of Congress accepted a magnanimous financial donation from industrial magnate and philanthropist Andrew Mellon and created the National Gallery of Art. Mellon, an avid art collector and connoisseur, promised his impressive collection to the United States and convinced many of his contemporaries to donate their collections. As a result, art from the collections of Armand Hammer, the Kress Family, Joseph Widener, Chester Dale, and many others is housed in this grand temple to classical painting and sculpture spanning many centuries.

Triptych: A Day at the Museum.
Visitor's enjoy the art of Mary Cassett and Vincent Van Gogh.
(Click on images to enlarge.)

The museum is not a part of the Smithsonian museum system, but it is, like its counterpart, a national treasure. The museum is made up of three components: the West Building, which houses classical art and was completed in 1941; the East Building, which houses modern and contemporary art and was completed in 1978; and a sculpture garden to the west of the original building, which opened in 1999. Like the Smithsonians, the NGA is free.

L: A painter recreates the work of an earlier artist.
R: My favorite painting in the entire museum: Albert Bierstadt's
Lake Lucerne.

The West Building was designed by architect John Russell Pope. He was also the architect for the train station in Richmond, Virginia, the Scottish Rite 33' Supreme Council in Washington, and would later go on to design the Jefferson Memorial in the Tidal Basin. Visitors can see works from Renoir, Degas, Monet, Manet, Stuart, Cassett, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and da Vinci, to name but a very few. The collections include 13th century Italian art all the way up to 19th century American art. If you want to see art that rivals some of Europe's finest collections, the National Gallery of Art is a must-see when you come to Washington.

The National Gallery of Art, West Building

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 6/08


Cowbark said...

Great info! I love the NGA - it's another one of the things I don't miss when I'm in town. The East building is more my style, but I usually cruise through the West building to check out whatever rotating exhibit they've got up as well.

Lori said...

Washington has so many wonderful museums (and so many are free to visit!). I didn't realize the National Gallery wasn't part of the Smithsonian. Thanks for all of the great info and I love the photos of the artworks.

Dusty Lens said...

Thanks for this museum tour, D.C. is now heading the top of our list for our next vacation itinerary. We enjoy the classical paintings and sculptures.

D.C. Confidential said...

Cowbark: The NGA is one of my top ten things to see in Washington! I adore this museum and I love its story. I wish more contemporary philanthropists would give in this respect. And, I wish someone would stand up to the family of William Randolph Hearst and get his vast collection of (plundered) art and sculpture out their crates in warehouses in NYC and finally put them in a museum where they belong. Hearst and others should take a page out of the book of Mellon.

Lori: I know! It's one of the best benefits of living here and it spoils us. I remember the first time I went to the Art Institute of Chicago and was told I had to pay. I was incredulous! I couldn't believe it. Although, in truth, our tax dollars pay for these wonderful museum, so I guess they're not really free.

Rob: Yeah! Glad to hear it! I think you'd really enjoy it and would love all the photo opps. NWA flies directly from MSP to DCA. Just sayin'....

USelaine said...

Great information! I especially like your lead photo of the face of the sculpture. The creation of such work is unbelievable.

Jules said...

How wonderful that rich people have a social conscience and are willing to share their stuff with us less rich people!!!!

Looks like a great place.

D.C. Confidential said...

USElaine: Thanks! I had a bit of a struggle trying to decide which picture to post. Photographing art in galleries is not the easiest thing!

Jules: It's a wonderful space. And a generous gift. We're very fortunate to have it.