National Gallery of Art Washington DC

The National Gallery of Art Washington DC is home to one of the most spectacular assemblies of art in existence, displaying significant accomplishments in art and sculpture, from the fifth century to contemporary times. The West Wing of this DC attraction features a collection of international masterpieces from the 13th to the 19th century, while the East Wing of the Washington DC art museum houses a modern collection of 20th century art. Most people don't realize it, but unlike many of the history and art museums in DC, the National Gallery of Art is not part of the Smithsonian complex.

National Gallery of Art Washignton DC
National Gallery of Art Washignton DC

The National Gallery of Art Washington DC has a dual personality. John Russell Pope was the architect who conceived its original West Building, the same neoclassical master who designed the Jefferson Memorial and the National Archives. The West gallery is magnificent and marble, featuring a domed roof above a columned fountain, and hallways with vaulted ceilings, opening on charming courtyard gardens. The West building was donated to the country by Andrew Mellon, along with the core of its original collection of art. Several masterpieces from the Hermitage are among them, including two Raphael's.

National Gallery of Art Interior
National Gallery of Art Interior

The extremely contemporary East Building, by contrast, is made of adjacent glass triangles, featuring airy pyramid-like skylights soaring above. Inside this wing is a showcase for the museum's collection of 20th-century art, including works by Picasso, Miró, Matisse, Pollock, and Rothko; this is also the home of an art history research center. The pink Tennessee marble from which both buildings were constructed was taken from the same quarry; it forms an architectural link between the two seemingly different art museums in DC.

National Gallery of Art Paintints
National Gallery of Art Paintings

A visit to the National Gallery of Art Washington DC is made even more enjoyable when visitors take time to wander or rest outdoors near the Sculpture Garden. Located in a prime position on the National Mall, the National Gallery Sculpture Garden is a favorite outdoor DC attraction, year-round. The Garden proudly displays seventeen sculptures from the Gallery's collection, and often exhibits works on loan, too. Located in the 6.1-acre block adjacent to the West Building, the stately yet casual Sculpture Garden houses sheltering trees of many native species. Floral trees, elegant shrubs, and multitudes of perennials contribute to the riotous color in the gardens, as well.

In the middle of the Sculpture Garden lies a splendid fountain, where visitors to this Washington DC art museum can go walking or sit and relax. In warm weather, people sit on the wide rim of the pool and cool their feet in the streams of cold water whilst picnicking or taking in one of the Friday night open-air jazz concerts the Gallery hosts. During the winter, people enjoy outdoor ice-skating amidst the sculpture, while resting or warming in The Pavilion Café.

The Pavilion Café offers year-round service, along with indoor seating. In addition to sandwiches, pizzas and salads, the Cafe serves wine and beer, and hot chocolate, coffee and tea. Skaters use this place to rest and refuel. The café view allows visitors to watch the skaters, which is entertaining in itself. The National Gallery of Art Washington DC remains one of the most popular DC attractions since it offers something for everyone, in an artistic environment encouraging exploration.

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