American Art and Portrait Gallery

Last Saturday, after attending the NATS regional competition with one of my incredibly talented students :), I left the University of Maryland and had about 3 hours to kill in Washington DC (one of my favorite places to visit). So, for the first time ever, I went to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. As with any other Smithsonian museum, I was not disappointed. I would have loved a couple of extra hours to finish touring the place sufficiently.

These two museums share one of Washington’s oldest, public buildings. This landmark was built in Greek Revival style, from 1836 to 1868. I must say, I was also impressed with the architecture of the courtyard, which opened in 2007. It is absolutely stunning, exhibiting a contemporary glass dome (pretty huge). The day was very cold, but the courtyard was nice and cozy, filled with natural sunlight. Next time I’m in DC, I’ll go there and sit for a while. Maybe I’ll order a cup of coffee and journal. It is simply beautiful.

               

Among my favorite exhibitions were the Time Magazine Covers from the 60’s (which runs until August of this year), and the permanent collection of paintings of all our American presidents, in the Portrait Gallery. The museum displays both American art and American history. The combination of those two, made me a very happy camper. 🙂

William Jefferson Clinton. Oil on Canvas. Chuck Close

George W. Bush.  Oil on Canvas. Robert Anderson.

George W. Bush. Oil on Canvas. Robert Anderson.

Andrew Jackson. Ferdinand Pettrich.

Andrew Jackson.
Ferdinand Pettrich.

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Cancer

This morning I went to the infusion center to get iron pumped into my blood. Being at the cancer center was sobering. While in the waiting room, I picked up a book called Lilly Oncology on Canvas: Expressions of a Cancer Journey. This book highlights selections from the 2012 Art Competition and Exhibition. I love art (can’t draw or paint to save my life but I can appreciate it when I see it), so I went through every page during my 45 minute stay.

Lilly Oncology on Canvas

I thought of my dear friends who have lost loved ones to cancer. I thought of those I know, some closer than others, who are currently fighting the battle. I thought of relatives and friends of cancer patients who suffer alongside them. My heart ached. I prayed. I read the stories behind these works of art created by either cancer patients and their loved ones or caregivers. There were heart wrenching stories of death and suffering. There were also many stories of victory over cancer, new life, hope, and gratitude.

I noticed a common thread from cancer survivors: a new-found appreciation for life. I read words such as “celebration”, “thankfulness”, and “newness”. I read stories of holding family closer, listening more, not taking things or people for granted, treasuring every moment, and feeling happiness in the smaller things. As horrible as cancer is, people who go through it can often find a new way to see the world around them. What a gift. What a horrible, awesome gift.

As I write this, I pray and hope that my cancer-ridden friends find complete remission and healing, as well as supernatural strength to endure and conquer. I pray they will be filled with faith and hope, and come out on the other side, knowing God better, understanding life more fully, and appreciating every moment. I also pray for myself and my loved ones – the ones who are cancer free – My hope is that we also live as if life is a gift, because it is, and that we are able to celebrate it and enjoy it, because we just never know what the future has in store. Life is precious and should not be taken for granted. May we not waste a day, but find purpose and fulfillment in living, until God takes us home.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

I just love this place. The building is elegant and spacious; The exhibits are appreciable and extensive; The atmosphere is inviting; The cafe, especially outdoors, is an art exhibit in it of itself; The cost is just right (free admission).

In addition to the availability 365 days a year, the museum offers multiple events for the community, including free Jazz nights on Thursday evenings, “Friday Art & Wine”, free walking tours, and a variety of art classes for children and adults. It is a wonderful place for a date night! It is also a peaceful spot to take a break from everyday life all by yourself.

Beautiful Museum Grounds

Beautiful Museum Grounds

Cafe

Cafe

Oil on canvas. “Street Scene Autumn”, Goodman

Oil on canvas. "Expressive Head", Lhote

Oil on canvas. “Expressive Head”, Lhote

Oil and acrylics on canvas. "Sisters", Hendricks

Oil and acrylics on canvas. “Sisters”, Hendricks

From the sublime to the ridiculous. Yes, modern art...

From the sublime to the ridiculous. Yes, modern art…

 

Visiting the National Gallery of Art

I have been to Washington D.C several times, but until today, I had never had the opportunity to visit the National Gallery of Art. I visited (and Elise happily accompanied me) the West Building as well as the Sculpture Garden. Boy, oh boy, I just loved that place!

First of all, I was anticipating to pay for parking and possibly ride the metro and then walk to the gallery. I was a little nervous about that since the forecast called for 50% chance of thunderstorms. But fortunately, A. We discovered that parking on the streets on Sundays is free and we easily found a spot 3 blocks away, and B. It did not rain a single drop!

The West Building featuring a special exhibit of Degas/Cassatt

The West Building featuring a special exhibit of Degas/Cassatt

The West Building is gorgeous and the layout very user friendly. This marble structure was the largest of its kind when it was built in 1940. It is breathtaking to walk through marble columns and marble walls. The entire main floor sits under skylights, which results in having much natural light shining throughout the building. The smart and easy layout makes it simple to walk through the exhibits fluidly, without the need to backtrack. The rooms and halls are very spacious and welcoming, allowing for a very pleasant and peaceful experience.

Ceiling over the rotunda in the main floor of the West Building

Ceiling over the rotunda in the main floor of the West Building

With Elise on the main floor

With Elise on the main floor

Of course, there was not enough time to walk through the entire museum, so Elise and I decided to linger mostly around 19th and 20th Century art, especially French, our favorite. What a sweet experience.

Picasso's "Madame Picasso"

Picasso’s “Madame Picasso”

 

Monet’s “The Walk — Woman With a Parasol”

 

Degas' "The Dance Lesson"

Degas’ “The Dance Lesson”

Vigee-Lebrun's "The Marquise de Pezay and the Marquise de Rouge with her Sons"

Vigee-Lebrun’s “The Marquise de Pezay and the Marquise de Rouge with her Sons”

Sargent's "Street in Venice"

Sargent’s “Street in Venice”

Across the street from the West Building is the Sculpture Garden. We took a mid-day break and hung out at the water fountain (which I hear turns into an ice skating rink during the winter), did some people-watching, sculpture viewing, and Elise spent some time sketching under the warm sun. I especially enjoyed the greenery: all native trees, bushes, and huge, beautiful flowers. We ate lunch at the Pavilion Cafe and then headed back to the West Building to see the exhibits we had previously missed.

Me by the reflecting pool / water fountain. In the background is the National Archives Museum

Me by the reflecting pool / water fountain. In the background is the National Archives Museum

A girl and her sketch pad

A girl and her sketch pad

Pretty Gardens

Pretty Gardens

Overall, our day at the capital receives a rating of 5 out of 5. At the end of the day we were reasonably tired but pleasantly satisfied with our experience in the Art Gallery. I would love to go again in the not so distant future and “linger” in a different section of the building.