National Gallery of Art

Washington Travel Blog

 › entry 49 of 53 › view all entries

National Gallery of Art: http://www.nga.gov 

I find myself in Washington DC with fellow TBer RJ and we both want to see some art while we are here. We only had one day to spend in the Capitol and there were several museums dedicated to art to choose from.  After weighing our options we decided to visit the National Gallery of Art (NGA). Like the other museums in the city the NGA is free! 

NGA was founded in 1937 upon the death of art collector, and the gallery’s financier, Andrew Mellon.  Mellon began collecting fine art many years prior to his death with the intentions of donating the collection to the United States in hopes of creating a National Gallery.

Calder
  In 1941 the West building – the more classically designed building –was completed and opened to the public. Since then, the collection has grown from the generous donations from both well known and lesser-known collectors. In 1978 the East building – the more modern of the two buildings – was completed to expand exhibition space and house a research center and library. Both of the NGA buildings are connected by an underground walkway where the café and gift shop exist. 

RJ and I were both freezing and neither of us could wait to get inside. We started with the East building for no other reason than to get out of the cold faster. Made it pass the security guards with flying colors and immediately went to the front desk for Gallery information and to see if photography was allowed. Joy, it was! 

The East building housed mostly the more contemporary artwork from postwar to present.

There were a few galleries in the main floor and upper levels but the bulk of the collection resided in the lower basement level. Artwork from Matisse, Alexander Calder, Romare Bearden, Helen Frankenthaler and Gorky could be seen along with so many more favorites. There was a film that went with the collection, but neither of us wanted to wait in line for the next showing – plus this was a HUGE museum. We ended up spending 3 hours inside and I still didn’t see everything. By the time I reached the Medieval Christian galleries I was practically speed walking from room to room to catch up with RJ who had saw everything and was enjoying the a seat.   

Most of the Galleries allowed photography with the exception of traveling collections and a few special collections. Still I would ask the museum attendants several times to reassure that I was in a gallery approved for photography.

Ellsworth Kelly
Most of the attendants were very pleasant and willing to answer any question with kindness; except one, he was a little sour in his approach. 

The walkway was also a work of art. Windows to allow natural daylight also allowed a lovely view of a sculpturally designed waterfall and in the center where the daylight failed to brighten, moving lights lit up the ceiling. They reminded me of those icicle holiday lights that appear to be dripping water. It was a neat effect.

Before entering the West building we passed by the art gift shop where my weakness for postcards and Collection books led me astray and poor RJ had to wait for me to satisfy art nerd needs. J 

In the West Building we find a long hallway with a plethora of gallery spaces on either side. The building was designed to be a sort of labyrinth of art. After the third gallery room RJ and I split without having to say anything.

Ellsworth Kelly
  I knew I would find him by the Michelangelo’s David/Apollo statue. I was right! J But prior to finding him I enjoyed gallery after gallery space filled with classic American, European, renaissance, the dreaded rococo and so much more. Degas, homer, Da Vinci and Vermeer were some of the highlights. Along with mu discovery of several Medieval Christian paintings depicting the Virgin Mary breast-feeding baby Jesus. I have never seen a painting like this and I found at least three here at the NGA.    

We finished the Museum tour with the David/Apollo statue on loan from Italy and then rushed back so that I could purchase my books, postcard and art tea mug from the shop. 

I can’t wait to revisit the NGA in the future. It is a stunning collection of art. I love the design of both buildings and flow from one gallery space to another.

Ellsworth Kelly
 

 

Other art museums to consider

 

Smithsonian American Art Museum & National Portrait Gallery: http://americanart.si.edu

 

National Gallery of African Art: http://africa.si.edu

 

National Museum of women in the Arts: http://www.nmwa.org

 

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: http://www.hirshhorn.si.edu/collection/home/

 

Art Museums of the Americas: http://www.museum.oas.org  

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Calder
Calder
Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly
Calder
Calder
Calder
Calder
Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly
Calder
Calder
Brancusi
Brancusi
Gorky
Gorky
Matisse
Matisse
Matisse
Matisse
Matisse
Matisse
Matisse
Matisse
Matisse
Matisse
Matisse
Matisse
Rothko
Rothko
Caldar
Caldar
Helen Frankenthaler!!!! I love her…
Helen Frankenthaler!!!! I love he…
Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko
Calder
Calder
Calder
Calder
Calder
Calder
Calder
Calder
OKeefe
O'Keefe
Washington
photo by: b93sp