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Visiting Art Museums in DC

 Some people go to museums to see art and some go to museums to Instagram themselves in the act of seeing art. Whatever your motive, Washington, D.C. is studded with exciting museums, small or large, well known or not so well known, quirky or traditional - there are so many options for those wishing to spend a Saturday afternoon escaping into a world of art.

One landmark museum in D.C. is The Phillips Collection. Located at 1600 21st St, NW in Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection is housed in the original home of the Phillips family and two additions which were enlarged to showcase the museum’s growing collection of work. The museum is essentially a large home built in 1897 and each room of the home contains works of art spanning different time periods and categories.  From French Impressionism to German Expressionism, contemporary works, and installation art, The Phillips Collection presents an extraordinary range of American and European art. 

In just one hour, if you move quickly from room to room, you will see the museum’s most famous work, Renoir’s painting, the Luncheon of the Boating Party, the Rothko Room, a permanent exhibit by expressionist painter Mark Rothko, and The Migration Series by Jacob Lawrence.  Sprinkled casually throughout are paintings by Paul Klee, Degas, Cezanne, Raoul Dufy, Henri Rousseau, Henri Matisse, and Joan Miro. The number of extraordinary works by well known artists is astonishing. And you are able to experience this art in a beautiful Victorian home, as if you were standing in your own living room just inches from a van Gogh painting. Run, don’t walk, to The Phillips Collection as soon as you possibly can.

And when you have finished a cup of tea in the Phillips cafe, take the Dupont Circle metro to the Smithsonian to visit the West Building of the National Gallery of Art for a quick tour of their collection of European paintings from the Renaissance period through the late nineteenth century, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci. The neoclassical architecture of the West Building and the peaceful, almost other-worldly calm of the interior courtyard gardens help transport the visitor to another time. The rooms are often empty and you might be the only person standing face to face with Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait of 1659, wondering what he would think of a selfie, today’s version of the self-portrait. You might also wonder if you can get away with taking a picture of yourself with Rembrandt to Instagram later. (You can’t.)

Next, leave the 17th century behind and step outside the West Building into the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, a six acre garden scattered with enormous sculptural works of art. Installations by Calder, Lichtenstein, Miro, and Tony Smith, among others, will make you feel like Alice in Wonderland as you stare up at Calder’s looming Cheval Rouge, or lose your perspective looking at Lichtenstein’s House I. When you have regained your balance, you can sit by the reflecting pool and fountain to reflect on the incredible paintings and sculpture that you have seen in just one day, and on the ability of artists to unite people over thousands of years through the simple act of admiring art.

 

For more information, check out the following websites: phillipscollection.org; blog.phillipscollection.org; nga.gov  

Posted: Oct 01, 2016 by Catherine Burke

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