During fall break, my friends and I took a short two-day trip to Washington, DC. Neither of us had been far from Baltimore since we moved in August, so this trip seemed long overdue. Although I have seen many aspects of DC, I had never before been to the two museums that I thought were worth the blisters my Doc Martens gave me on the walk: the National Gallery of Art and the National Portrait Gallery.
The day started with a short train ride and then a long journey to the National Art Gallery due to confusing closed entrances. We never found out why the entrance was closed, we were just not allowed in through the exit, unlike the elementary students we were stuck behind. Eventually we found the appropriate, unblocked entrance just across the street.
Now I had to dive into the museum. We first explored the main floor of the National Art Gallery, where there was a wide range of sculptures, medals and plaques from the 13th-16th centuries. France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United States have art represented in these exhibits.
Many of the sculptures are made of marble, bronze or terracotta. All these materials show beautiful pieces, incl Man in armorwhich was made of painted and gilded terracotta, and Cupid on dolphin, which is made of gilded bronze. After spending minutes and minutes looking at the sculptures (and getting lost in the museum), we made our way through the art galleries. American still lifes, 19th century American paintings, and Impressionism were explored.
Many of these paintings were enclosed in elaborate gold frames. The texture of the paintings was often very bright, as many paintings had no glass protection, spoiling their detail. Brush strokes could be seen when I got as close as I could get to the paintings without getting yelled at by security guards (which only happened twice).
Many of the paintings were oil on canvas or oil on wood. My favorite piece on this floor was The railwayoil on canvas painting by Édouard Manet in 1873. Honors include The old violin by William Michael Harnett and Wooden schooners in the evening in Penobscot Bay by Fitz Henry Lane. Each of them is a picture of different subjects: people, objects and landscapes.
The overall atmosphere at the National Art Gallery was much louder than I expected. There weren’t many pretentious art critics around, and no tour groups. Instead, I saw many families together and art watchers engaging in conversations with us about how Miss Beatrice Townsend’s portrait of eyes follows you.
Visit the National Art Gallery. You will not be judged for walking quickly through the halls, and someone will be happy to take a picture of you and all your friends sitting on the sofa that lies in the middle of the exhibit.
The second museum we visited was the National Portrait Gallery, which houses, yes, portraits! My favorite art form is portraits so I was beyond excited to go here and my expectations were exceeded. Some of my favorite pieces include: Angel by Abbott Handerson Thayer, The necklace by Thomas Wilmer Dewing and Franklin D. Roosevelt by Douglas Chandor.
The best portraits were those in The Outwin 2022 exhibition, which featured a variety of photographed, painted and painted portraits. The artwork that stayed with me throughout the day was Killed negative #13 by Joel Daniel Phillips. It was different from all the others and carried an emotion like no other.
The atmosphere of the portrait gallery was very different from the National Art Gallery. It was quiet and thoughtful in the portrait gallery, perhaps trying to understand the emotions of the faces that were permanently etched on canvas.
Get away from campus, away from Baltimore, and away from your hometown next break. Go to Washington DC, visit some museums and see some art. It will be worth the painful train ride to some lady who takes the quiet car way too seriously.