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National Gallery of Art
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. is one of the largest art museums in the world. The museum was established in 1937, and houses a great collection of masterpieces such as paintings, photographs, sculptures, drawings and other decorative art. It is located on the National Mall, along 6th and Constitution Avenue NW, surrounded by major Smithsonian Institution museums. The collection touches on art pieces dating back from the Middle Ages (13th century) to the present, including the only painting made by Leonardo da Vinci in the country.
HistoryIn the late 1920s, Andrew W. Mellon, a Pittsburgh banker with a private collection of old master paintings and sculptures, wanted to establish a new national gallery of art for the United States, separate from the Smithsonian Institution. He founded the A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust in 1930, which would become the legal owner of his collection and future acquisitions. In 1937, Mellon’s proposal to create a new gallery was approved by the Congress and the private collection and building funds were accepted. The construction of the new national gallery was approved on the National Mall.
The first major masterpieces acquired by the Trust was the Alba Madonna by Raphael, The Annunciation by Jan van Eyck, and the Venus with a Mirror by Titian (Tiziano Vecelli). Later on, private donations of other substantial art collections were given by founding benefactors, which greatly expanded the museum’s original inventory.
The BuildingThe National Gallery of Art is divided into two sections or buildings, the West Building and the East Building. The West Building has an original neoclassical design devised by John Russell Pope, an American architect. The building houses several European and American paintings and sculptures from the 13th century to the early 20th century. The West Building is also connected to the East Building through an underground passage.
The modern design of the East Building was made by Chinese-born American architect, I.M. Pei, who is also recognized as the “master of modern architecture.” The building was constructed in 1970 and houses contemporary art pieces from the 20th century. The museum’s library and administrative offices are also located in this building.
The CollectionThe National Gallery of Art’s permanent collection comprises of paintings, sculptures, and other art works from the 13th century to the present day. Most of the highlights in the gallery include Italian Renaissance masterpieces and other significant works by the old masters such as:
• Ginevra de’ Benci by Leonardo Da Vinci (the only painting of Da Vinci on public view in the United States)
• The Feast of the Gods by Giovanni Bellini
• Adoration of the Magi by Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi
• Allendale Nativity by Giorgione
• Alba Madonna by Raphael
• Saint Martin and the Beggar by Spanish Renaissance painter, El Greco
• The Assumption of the Virgin by Nicolas Poussin
Other famous works by world-renowned artists include self-portraits of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, and contemporary artworks by Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet. There are also several highlights from the American collection such as paintings by Thomas Cole, George Bellows, and Frederic Edwin Church.
The National Gallery of Art also has over 75,000 prints, including rare illustrated books in its print collection. The collection started in 1941 with only 400 prints, which gradually expanded through the donations from the private collections of American businessmen and philanthropists.
The National Gallery of Art Sculpture GardenIn 1999, the Sculpture Garden which is located right next to the National Gallery’s West Building was opened to the public. The Sculpture Garden is the most recent addition to the gallery, and houses several sculptures from its contemporary sculpture collection. At the center of the garden is a large fountain, which during the winter, is converted into an ice-skating rink. The Sculpture Garden was designed by American landscape architect, Laurie Olin, and his urban design firm.
VisitingThe gallery is open from Monday to Saturday, 10AM – 5PM, and Sunday, from 11AM to 6PM. It is open every day of the year, except Christmas Day and New Year. Admission to the National Gallery is free for all visitors, including educational lectures and programs. When visiting the huge gallery, it is encouraged that the guests should check out the exhibit map first, in order to efficiently budget their time. The underground passage linking the two buildings is also a must-see, since the tunnel is a work of art itself.
Getting ThereThe National Gallery of Art is easily accessible once you are on the National Mall. You can reach the gallery by getting a taxicab from anywhere in the city, or take a Metrobus to the National Mall and dropping off at the 4th and 7th Street NW bus stop. Visitors can also take a train ride to the nearest Metrorail Station.
• Red Line – Judiciary Square Metrorail Station
• Yellow/Green Lines – Archives-Penn Quarter Station
• Blue/Orange Lines – Smithsonian Station
Driving by private car is also possible but highly discouraged due to the congested traffic in the metro area. Parking is very limited within the National Mall, especially during peak seasons. Parking is available at the surrounding streets, and several commercial garages around the vicinity.
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Author: radiantan. Last updated: Jan 16, 2015