The National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden
This monumental museum of art takes up two city blocks and continues across the street with a new outdoor sculpture garden. Half a day is hardly long enough to see everything. The Web site will guide you to the must-sees if you have only limited time (even less than an hour).
The original neoclassical West Building was designed by John Russell Pope (who also designed the Jefferson Memorial and the nearby National Archives building). The newer East Building is connected via an underground passageway that includes a gift shop and restaurant. Its H-shaped façade and signature skylights were designed by Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei, who also designed the controversial glass pyramid addition at the Louvre museum in Paris.The West Building
The gallery was created by Congress after financier Andrew Mellon donated his world-renowned art collection to the nation; the collection included two of the Raphaels on display. Today, the National Gallery has one of the finest collections of Renaissance art outside Italy. It may house the only bona fide painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the United States —
Because of so many recent destructive acts aimed at artworks, to say nothing of plain thoughtlessness, none of the city's art museums will allow backpacks or large, unwieldy bags inside. You must check them in the coat-check areas.
The Flemish and Dutch collections are equally stupendous, with some of the finest Rembrandts, Vermeers, Halses, Rubenses, and Van Eycks in America. The eighteenth- and nineteenth-century galleries displaying French works include some marvelous rococo Watteaus and Bouchers, as well as David's
In the galleries that display nineteenth-century English paintings, there are marvelous landscape paintings by Turner and Constable, as well as portraits by Thomas Gainsborough.
One of the most popular Colonial American paintings on display in the American collection — John Singleton Copley's Watson and the Shark — tells the story of fourteen-year-old Watson's fall into Havana Harbor, where a shark ate his right foot. Watson survived to become a successful British merchant and politician. This is sure to be a shocker (and pleaser) for bored boys who are tired of all the portraits and landscapes.
You can also view American classics, including a terrific selection of early American paintings by unknown artists, such as
The indoor sculpture collection downstairs spans the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries and includes a fabulous Rodin collection, including studies for
Break for lunch after you've seen the West Building, and eat in the full-service Terrace Cafe, which offers a good selection of sandwiches, pastas, and hot meals. You can even enjoy a glass of wine and use your credit card to pay. Then head through the ground-floor gift shop, which features mainly prints, scarves, and posters, and look at the twentieth-century art housed in the East Building.The East Building
The East Building features an impressive number of largecanvas moderns from the abstract expressionist movement, including Robert Motherwell's gigantic black-and-white painting
The outdoor sculpture garden on 8th Street features about thirty works from the late twentieth century and is a wonderful marriage of large-scale art and public space. A large circular fountain shoots jets of water in the center of the garden — during the winter it's an iceskating rink — and there is an outdoor cafe. People flock to the giant typewriter eraser by Claes Oldenburg and Lichtenstein's
The museum is located on Constitution Avenue, between 3rd and 7th Streets on the north side of the Mall. Take the Metro to Archives (Yellow or Green Line), Judiciary Square (Red Line), or Smithsonian (Blue or Orange Line) Metro station.
You can visit Monday through Saturday from 10
Wheelchairs and strollers are available on a first-come, firstserved basis at all entrances. The exhibition spaces and public facilities are accessible by elevator. You can get a free copy of the
Visitors must present carried items for inspection. Luggage and oversize bags must be presented at the Fourth Street entrance of the East or West Building to be X-rayed and checked. Checkrooms, located at each entrance, are free to use. Backpacks are not allowed inside.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens created the
There are five places to eat at the National Gallery. In the East Building, the Terrace Café offers a nice theme buffet lunch, or you can watch a waterfall as you munch on the goodies at the Cascade Café. For java and sweets, there's The Espresso & Gelato Café. The Garden Café in the West building also offers a theme menu. For a view of the Sculpture Garden, there's the Pavilion Café. All are child-friendly.