Monday, January 24, 2011

Smithsonian & National Gallery of Art


Smithsonian Institute Building
 It was a chilly day but the sun was in full force in D.C.  Today, A. Paul & I dedicated the full day to exploring the galleries along the Mall.  If you have never been in Washington, D.C.,  the Mall is not a shopping mall.  It is the major open park region sandwiched between Constitution and Independence Avenues, stretching between the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building.  Pennsylvania Avenue lies on the hypotenuse connecting the Captiol Building in a straight line to the White House.  Along the sides of the Mall  and surrounding areas are where most major galleries and government buildings are located.   The natural starting spot for us along the Mall was the Smithsonian Institute, the world's largest research complex with mutilple galleries, national zoo, and research facilities, established in the late 1800s by the bequest of James Smithson, an English Chemist and mineralogist.   The Smithsonian serves as the central information center to its surrounding galleries.

 " The Balcony"  J. Whistler
Once we were acclimated to the lay of the galleries, we ventured off to the Freer and Sackler Galleries adjacent to the Smithsonian. Our main focus was to study the collection of the American painter James McNeill Whistler and collection of Asian Arts, which greatly influenced Whistler's work.  One of the highlights in the Whistler exhibit was the Peacock Room, a complete dining room designed by Thomas Jekyll for a London shipbuilder, Frederick Leland, one of Whistler's major patrons. The room was created to house Leland's major collection of blue & white asian 
The Peacock Room
porcelain. During the process of building the room,  the architect died unexpectedly and Whistler took over the project.  Towards the completion of the room, a rift developed  between Leland and Whistler resulting in Whistler's painting of the two fighting peacocks on the back wall.  To read more about Whistler's work and the Peacock Room, visit the Freer Sackler site .

Exterior of Hirschhorn Gallery

 Next we changed up our viewing pace with contemporary arts at the Hirshhorn Gallery.  The building itself  is a marvel in contemporary architecture, befitting for the collection held within.

escalator into Hirschhorn

Franz Kline

The collection was rich with Koonigs, Calders, Dubuffets, Brancusis, Moores, and we were fortunate to even take in another Franz Kline.

Following our visit to Hirshhorn we wandered across the Mall, attempting to avoid the gathering rally ascending on the Capitol.  Nothing like being a part of the news in the making!

Pro Life Rally on DC
anniversary of Roe v Wade
We fled across the Mall to the National Gallery of Art where the rest of the day was to be consumed.  The NGA is extraordinary and monumental in all aspects, architecturally and breadth of collection.  We attempted to utilize the free self guided tour gadgets but found them inefficient as you had to hold it like a phone receiver and was limited in offering information on the pieces within any one salon of work. However, the collection itself more than made up for the loss of the guide.

Thomas Eakins "Study of Banjo Player"
The gallery collections ranged from early 13th to 16th century artists, Italian, Spanish, Netherlandish, German, Dutch and Flemish, to 18th - 19th century British, American, and French artists in the West Building.   After a quick bite in the gallery cafe and glance through the gallery bookstore, we were off to the East Building of Contemporary Arts to take in Warhol, Miro, O'Keefe, Giacometti, Hofmann and others.  After numerous hours of viewing art, A. Paul  I were gleefully on overload.  The rally outside was just winding down in time for us to take a brisk stroll back to the hotel several blocks away, ruminating on our visual indulgences.
"Repose" Sargent
Tomorrow we take in the Phillips Collection, a must see before we leave.  To do so means we must shift our driving schedule to accommodate our morning viewing.  We will be on the road to Richmond, Virginia and possibly land in Norfolk, Virginia by nightfall.  I will try to post the next blog tomorrow evening, if possible, but if not, certainly by the next day to discuss the Phillips Collection and other adventures along the way to Virginia's eastern coastline.

Last closing remarks, thank you Cliff from Principle Gallery in Alexandria for the name correction.  We are glad you found the blog successfully.

A. Paul among Matisse Cut Outs