Monday, December 22, 2014

Night at the Museum - the National Portrait Gallery

This past Friday I spent the evening at the National Portrait Gallery; at least it felt like evening since it was dark the entire time(they're open until 7pm)
If you haven't visited you really must;it's one of my favorite museums in DC. Housed in the old Patent office building completed in 1840, the Greek Revival structure was the 3rd public building constructed in the United States.
The third floor is a stunning open space which was restored a number of years ago. When built it was the largest room in the United States! President Lincoln held his 2nd inaugural ball here.
The art is thoughtfully displayed throughout the structure to show off not only the art but take best advantage of the architecture.  Enfilades are carefully ended in works of art. Symmetry is key here and nothing is left to chance with a work's placement within the building.
Sometimes the shadows are more interesting than the work itself!
 I've always admired the settings and 'rooms' created around special works of art. The alcove above is decorated as if one were in a cemetery.
The alcove which houses Sargent's "The Spanish Dancer", a study of sorts for El Jaleo housed at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston,  is painted a murky brown to show the picture to its best advantage.
One of my favorite paintings in the museum is Spring Dance by Arthur Mathews from 1917 -but the frame is just as stunning as the picture.
 Sometimes a painting is more interesting when in conjunction with another work of art; contrast.
I'm not sure why Whistler's 'Valparaiso Harbor' is at the portrait gallery but I wasn't complaining -I spent a lot of time studying this painting!


Karena Albert said...

Stefan, I have not visited The National Portrait Gallery and really must after seeing this fabulous glimpse of it! Stunning works of art and sculpture!

All the Best during this Holiday Season!

Tis the Sunday before Christmas

deana sidney said...

I haven't been there either. What a pity. It really is a breathtaking space, they knew how to do impressive then, didn't they? Thanks for the closeups on the frames... they are striking on their own.
Merry XMAS.

Mark Ruffner said...

Hi, Stefan, I will definitely make a stop at the National Portrait Gallery on my next trip to D.C. Your photos and descriptions make it very inviting.

Windlost said...

Hi Stefan, I love the National Portrait Gallery in DC. I thought old portraits were going to be dusty, fusty old things, but they are rich and inspiring and full of charm. I just adored it and saw the faces of many famous people I'd never laid eyes on before. And it made me curious about their lives and work. It was such a treat. Next I need to visit the NPG in London. Thanks for the reminder.
All the best to you and have a very Merry Christmas! I have enjoyed your posts so much this year (I always learn something).
xo Terri

Nancy {at} powellbrower at home said...

I need my NPG fix- my kids went there without me this Christmas and raved about it. Did you know the atrium is said to be one of the 7 Architectural Wonders of the World? Of course you know that. Happy Holidays Stefan! xo Nancy