USA // The Capital Region //

National Gallery of Art


The visually stunning National Gallery of Art, just east on Constitution Avenue, between 3rd and 9th streets NW (Mon–Sat 10am–5pm, Sun 11am–6pm; free; t 202/737-4215, w, is one of the most important museums in the US, though not part of the Smithsonian per se. The original Neoclassical gallery, opened in 1941, is now called the West Building and holds the bulk of the permanent collection. Galleries to the west on the main floor display major works by early- and high-Renaissance, and Baroque masters, arranged by nationality: half a dozen Rembrandts fill the Dutch gallery, including a glowing, mad portrait of Lucretia; Van Eyck and Rubens dominate the Flemish; and El Greco, Goya and Velázquez face off in the Spanish. In the voluminous Italian galleries, there’s the only da Vinci in the Americas, the 1474 Ginevra de’ Benci, painted in oil on wood; Titian’s vivid image of Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos and Venus with a Mirror; and Raphael’s renowned Alba Madonna (1510). The other half of the West Building holds an exceptional collection of nineteenth-century paintings – a couple of Van Goghs, some Monet studies of Rouen Cathedral and water lilies, Cézanne still lifes, and the like. For British art, you can find genteel portraits by Gainsborough and Reynolds, but even more evocative hazy land- and waterscapes by J.M.W. Turner. Augustus St Gaudens’ magisterial battle sculpture Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment takes up a whole gallery to itself.