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The most famous portrait at the museum is probably this one by Leonardo da Vinci.
National Gallery of Art
Closest available address
6th and Constitution Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20565
Open Monday–Saturday 10am–5pm & Sunday 11am–6pm.
Best time to visit
District of Columbia
Checking out the art here is like taking a class on fine art.
The National Gallery of Art is a world famous and world class art museum on the mall in Washington, DC. The museum, which is free, contains a superb collection of European and American paintings, sculptures, and furniture mainly from the 1200s to the 1800s. The primary exhibits are located in the original wing. More contemporary art and prints are displayed in the newer east wing. A 6 acre modern art sculpture garden is reviewed separately. The gallery also includes several restaurants and a sizable gift shop. Free lectures and tours are also offered.
The National Gallery was a gift to the American people from Andrew Mellon (1855-1937). An accomplished financier and philanthropist, Mellon was a great man who lived a great life. Believing that the United States should have an art museum as notable as those in Europe, Mellon not only donated his sizable private art collection but donated the money to build the museum itself. His children continued this legacy of giving by donating additional art and the funds to build the east wing. All the art in the museum has been donated outright or purchased with donations, a remarkable testament to generosity of an affluent class that is often pilloried for greediness. Construction of the main museum was completed in 1941 after Andrew Mellon died. The east wing opened in 1978 and the sculpture garden in 1999.
During the visit here in 2014 the east wing galleries were closed for a multi-year renovation; only the atrium of that building was open. As a result, most of the time was spent in the original wing. Checking out the art here is like taking a class on fine art. The only difference is that it's right in front of you. The size, quality and accessibility of the art was extraordinary. Even for a person who is grossly ignorant of art and artists, the collection was very impressive. The national gallery generally offers free tours everyday, and these are a great way to better appreciate fewer paintings for a longer period of time. One docent in particular, Mary O'Neill, who gives tours on weekends was first rate. If you visit when she is conducting a tour, plan to join it. Note that a couple other tour guides were quite average. Free audio tours are available as well. An audio tour is better than a bad docent but not as good as a talented one. Try out both options and see which you prefer. Either way, getting some assistance will enhance your appreciation for the art and your overall experience as the interpretive signage was lacking at times. There is so much quality art at this museum, it's almost pointless to make specific recommendations. However, some of the more memorable artists/art included a rare portrait by Leonardo de Vinci, a figure called Little Dancer by Edgar Degas, a self portrait by Vincent van Gogh, and a painting named Right and Left by Winslow Homer. Not to be overlooked are paintings by Raphael and Rubens and sculptures by Rodin. The list of art and artists could go on, but you get the idea. With a full day you can get a decent perspective of the collection in the original wing, but will likely have to skim some of it since there is so much to see. If you want to visit both wings, plan a two day visit. The gallery delivers incredible value and priceless art. It is well worth a day of your life to experience this gem - Andrew Mellon's great legacy.
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