American Art

Washington Travel Blog

 › entry 11 of 27 › view all entries
the Renwick Gallery
This morning I headed out around 9:30 for a short visit to DC.  My destination was the Renwick Gallery where the Smithsonian Institute houses its craft and decorative arts program.  I had been past the museum two years earlier when I visited the Corcoran to see an Ansel Adams exhibit, so I recognized the red brick building.  The 19th-century structure gets its name from its architect James Renwick Jr; his bust sits in front of a window on the second floor.
Inside I went through the customary bag check and picked up a map from the information desk.  I asked the docent if she had any recommendations for artwork I should not miss.  She asked if I had been to their main museum over in Chinatown and I replied yes, I had been there for the Smithsonian Teacher Night a few years prior.  My identity as a Spanish teacher revealed, the security guard wanted some pointers on how to roll her r's, a difficult skill.
Temple's Gate Pass

After that chat, I headed up the tall staircase with a large chandelier hanging overhead.  Instead of heading straight into the Grand Salon, I ducked into one of the smaller rooms focused on crafts.  The focal point was a large cabinet called Bureau of Bureaucracy created over a six year period.  The piece of furniture had various drawers and doors that appeared as it was explored (although not by guests since Do Not Touch warnings were everywhere!).  It even had a miniature version of a reading room from the Library of Congress.
The next room focused on art with an organic feel.  My favorite piece was the earthernware Temple Gate's Pass.  Its design combined waves and blocks and conjured visions of noble western mountains.
Bancketje (Banquet)
  I was also intrigued by the tall Portal Gates by a Philadelphia artist.  The curved metal bars begged for some fun photography.  I also liked Yellowstone Rhododendron with its yellow leaves and the thread-based Scratch.
I then moved into a smaller octagonal room with an old-fashioned feel: drapes, darker walls, an ornate chandelier, elaborate end tables and chairs.  The artwork included two pieces by Mary Cassett including one of a young girl Sara in a Green Bonnet.  Each of the paintings hailed from Cassett's era, further enhancing the older tone of the room.
Subtitled Mystery and Manners, the next room returned me to the present day.
Ghost Clock
  A long table covered in glass immediately grabbed my attention.  As I looked closer, I noticed a haphazard, even broken arrangement.  The placard on the wall explained that the table combined the work of sixteen different artists to recall the still lifes by Dutch artists of an earlier century.  The design "both celebrates and mourns excess."  I found the two mice snitching morsels amusing.  This room also housed Ghost Clock, the thirteenth and final installment in a series by Wendell Castle.  However, this sculpture is an optical illusion.  At first glance it is a grandfather clock draped in a white cloth.  Careful inspection though reveals the truth: Ghost Clock was carved from a single piece of mahogany.
Game Fish
  The white cover is not linen or cotton or any other fabric but the same wood as the visible base of the faux clock.
I continued in a modern vein as I looked at some more fantastical creations.  Game Fish, hanging on a wall, definitely demanded notice.  The entire aquatic animal was made from a huge variety of former toys: dice, toy blocks, action figures, paintbrushes, even a badminton birdie.  While Game Fish definitely amazed me, my favorite piece was Akikonomu, basically a vibrantly-colored tree trunk.  I also really liked The Silk Rainforest with its tight columns of silk, linen, and cotton in tones mostly of blue and green, some more golden hues adding highlights.
going into the Grand Salon

A wide open space with a frosted skylight, the Grand Salon housed the most paintings.  Placards in front of each wall showed a map that identified each painting's name and artist.  While I did not know the names of any of these artists, I started to recognize the style of individual painters.  (It was a neat feeling to look at a painting, notice similarities to another work, and identify the artist.)
Since the Renwick was between special exhibits, the Grand Salon was the last real stop on my visit to the museum.  I quickly browsed the gift shop, just to see what they had, and then exited.  I walked past Blair House and looked at the White House for a few moments before returning to the Metro.
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
the Renwick Gallery
the Renwick Gallery
Temples Gate Pass
Temple's Gate Pass
Bancketje (Banquet)
Bancketje (Banquet)
Ghost Clock
Ghost Clock
Game Fish
Game Fish
going into the Grand Salon
going into the Grand Salon
above the entrance
above the entrance
chandelier above the staircase
chandelier above the staircase
Journey to Destiny
Journey to Destiny
Bureau of Bureaucracy
Bureau of Bureaucracy
Scratch
Scratch
backside of Temples Gate Pass
backside of Temple's Gate Pass
Yellowstone Rhododendron
Yellowstone Rhododendron
Portal Gates
Portal Gates
Portal Gates detail
Portal Gates detail
Cobalt and Gold Leaf Venetian
Cobalt and Gold Leaf Venetian
drapes in the Octagon Room
drapes in the Octagon Room
Summer, New England
Summer, New England
mice!
mice!
Bad Hare Day (table), Entrada (clo…
Bad Hare Day (table), Entrada (cl…
Akikonomu
Akikonomu
The Silk Rainforest
The Silk Rainforest
Game Fish detail
Game Fish detail
Game Fish detail
Game Fish detail
just pottery...
just pottery...
...and the full painting
...and the full painting
Washington
photo by: b93sp