Sunday, March 25, 2012

National Portrait Gallery

One of my favorite museums in DC is the National Portrait Gallery. In 2000, the building underwent a major 6 year long renovation which included enclosing the courtyard, done by the starchitect Norman Foster.While I think this contemporary roof blends harmoniously with the classical building, formerly the National Patent Office, it's the restoration of the amazing Greek Revival building that really fascinates me.The building encompasses an entire city block so you can imagine the number of staircases required to provide access to all 3 floors.Each is different and the details astound me, every one.The stone scalloped treads of this curved stair elegantly cantilever out of the wall.While the stringer of this stair is amazingly shallow. Aren't the shadows beautiful?The first floor is almost treated as a basement in Piano Nobile style. This stair with heavy granite treads reminds me of a servant's stair from Downton Abbey.The top floor has this mezzanine and is a light filled atrium thank to the skylight, perfect for the more modern and celebrity portraiture.Check out these colorful Victorian tile floors!The art is as beautiful as the building, naturally, and there is always an interesting exhibit to check out. This bronze sculpture of the Spirit of Life, 1914, by Daniel Chester French, lies at the top of one of the many stairscases.A portrait of the beautiful Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler, 1893, by John Singer Sargent, is one of my many favorite portraits.The collection houses a number of works from the aesthetic period (my favorite) such as this painting of a Woman with red hair, 1894, by Albert Herter. So if you're in DC checking out our Cherry Blossom Festival and beautiful spring weather, don't forget to stop into the National Portrait Gallery!
The National Portrait Gallery is located at 8th Street NW & F Street NW atop the Gallery Place/Chinatown metro stop.

12 comments:

Loi Thai, Tone on Tone said...

I used to work at the Smithsonian, and would love visiting this gem. One of our best museums!

Simply Grand said...

Your 3rd & 4th photos prove it's possible to bring historic railings up to code without screwing up their looks in the process. All it takes is talent. Too often, even if an original railing is preserved its good looks are not. This was a handsome solution to a comon challenge.

Mark D. Ruffner said...

The railing in the 3rd and 4th photographs is gorgeous - it reminds me of the work of one of my heroes, Karl Friedrich Schinkel. It's so great that buildings like this are restored and given new purpose.

Reggie Darling said...

I adore the National Portrait Gallery, and am sure to make a pilgrimage there (and to JRP's sublime National Gallery) whenever I am fortunate enough to spend a weekend in the Nation's Capitol. Thanks for these marvelous photos (and of Seaside, too!). RD

Parnassus said...

While I am reserving judgment on that glass roof, the building itself is magnificent, and I am also with you on that Chanler portrait.
--Road to Parnassus

Windlost said...

I just adored that gallery when we visited in October. It is in my top galleries list for sure. I loved it.

Here is my post about it:
http://windlost.blogspot.ca/2011/10/national-portrait-gallery-american-art.html

Thanks for the lovely reminder. So envious you get to LIVE there. I would be in galleries every weekend.

xo Terri

designchic said...

I am completely fascinated with the gorgeous stairway railings...stunningly beautiful. I have not been to the museum since the renovation, but it's a must after seeing these images!!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Designchic -you must visit!

Parnassus -the roof is similar to other courtyards Foster had enclosed -I think it's succesful.

Mark -I hadn't thought of it but it is similar to Schinkel's work!

Daniel James Shigo said...

Wonderful post! Can't wait to see this building again!

Ann said...

What a great post! I haven't been there in a long time but I would go back for the building as much as the works therein contained. Those the first stairs with the scalloped cantilever, amazing design. Love the term starchitect!

Kwana said...

I would love to visit here one day. Thanks for the tour.

Todd said...

This makes me want to come back to DC just to visit this museum. Such a a beautiful building!