Monday, October 03, 2011

National Portrait Gallery & American Art Museum

I have a new love. On our recent trip through Washington, DC we visited the stunning National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum (housed together in the newly renovated Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture).

This gallery knocked my socks off. I thought the National Gallery of Art (also in DC) was amazing, but this was a real gem of a gallery. I am a genuine art lover and can easily spend a whole afternoon in an interesting gallery.

I thought I'd share some highlights with you. One of the most appealing aspects of this gallery is the wall colours. The gallery's curators choose such flattering wall colours to complement the paintings in the various rooms...

New acquisitions at the Portrait Gallery. The lady at the center is Ann Landers:

Maybe you recognize Walt Whitman?

And here is Mark Twain, together with artist Cecilia Beaux and novelist Henry James:

And a young Edith Wharton (who I am just now reading):

A self-portrait by painter Cecilia Beaux. She held her own beside many of the great male painters of the day:

One of my all-time favorite painters - American impressionist painter Mary Cassatt, as captured by her pal Edgar Degas (this looked familiar...I have it in a book on Degas!). Cassatt is said to have hated this portrait of herself:

A charming portrait of industrialist Henry Clay Frick, with his daughter:

The interior courtyard:

The Deco-era "Woman with Red Hair" by Albert Herter. I love that the curators hung this painting of an orange-haired lass on a complementary blue wall:

My favorite room. The painting on the left is by Cecilia Beaux (above), entitled "Man with the Cat" (Henry Sturgis Drinker, her brother-in-law) with a charming ginger cat. On the right is a stunning pot of flowers by my new *favorite* artist Abbott Handerson Thayer:

A close-up of Thayer's flowers:

And to the right is a stunning portrait of Miss Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler (by portraitist extraordinaire John Singer Sargent):

The Sargent portrait is stunning. We saw an exhibition of his work in Houston last March, but this is my favorite painting of all. It works beautifully on this red wall:

I also adored this portrait, "An Interlude," by Wm Sergeant Kendall, of his wife and daughter. A print of this would be lovely in a child's room (I bought a postcard):

The very pretty "Wreath of Flowers" by John La Farge is in the foreground of this shot. Note the rich green walls:

"Angel" and "Virgin Enthroned" both by Abbott Handerson Thayer (the latter was painted in 1891, the year his wife died):

Another angel by Thayer, who took up painting angels after the death of two young children and his wife:

I hope you enjoyed the brief tour of this lovely gallery. My highest compliments to its esteemed curators! David also enjoyed the Civil War exhibit...


  1. Lovely gallery and I agree fantastic colours on the walls. I don't think we made it to that gallery when we were in DC about 10 years ago. I guess it is time for another visit and I'll have to add the Portrait Gallery to my list.

  2. Oh I love such portraits, and the painting with the roses it seem you almost can touch. I am sad we do not have such a gallery close, we must go to Stockholm and it is so far, 1200 km :)

    Hope everything is fine with you, here in the north the autumn grabbed us and winter is soon to come. I entered a judged art exhibition with 2 of my photos, you can see them on my blog.


  3. ...And Thayer, I loooove his Angels...


  4. Really beautiful! I've only recently become attracted to or paid attention portraits and these are wonderful. We're fortunate to have a lot of Sargents in Boston and they're among my favorites but there are a new a few new (to me) artists whose work I'll need to take a look at.

    Agreed. The grayed down wall colors are masterful.

  5. Wonderful portraits and, as you say, complemented by the vibrant wall colours.

  6. A lovely mini-tour through the gallery. I agree with you about the wonderful wall colours. They really complement the portraits.

  7. Thank you for this post. I recognized just one the angel room at the end. I've seen it on postcards and Christmas cards, I think. I was surprised by the richness of the room colors, though I do agree that they are wonderful complements. What do you think of the frames? They're all so ornate and so very gold.

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