Almost as much as theatre, I have missed going to art galleries. I’m a complete novice when it comes to fine art and fall squarely into the camp of “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” So, as I planned my NYC/Broadway trip, I decided to extend by a couple of days and went to D.C. I have always wanted to go to the National Portrait Gallery. And now I have.
The mission was to see the presidential portraits. With the exception of Obama’s, which is on tour, they’re all there, including the most recent president’s. It’s a flattering portrait. But the real joy for me came when I realized it was hung so that it is being stared down by John Lewis’s portrait in the next room, which features prominent soldiers in the fight for civil rights. I spent the better part of my second day at this gallery and discovered my new favorite artist, Paul Cadmus. His Night in Bologna is the second painting as you enter the gallery to the right, and it hit me like a bolt of lightning. While it’s very much in the distinctive style of the rest of his work, it’s also more reserved. I’m trying to find an affordable print, but the best I can do is a signed poster – at $2,500. I love the painting. I don’t love it that much.
My first day in D.C. was at the National Art Gallery. An amazing place. Housed in two buildings, the first building is stately, housing art dating from 1600s to the 1900s. I didn’t realize that there is a second building with an underground walkway that houses art starting from the twentieth century. The building itself is a work of art, comprised of three separate towers.
Gallery visits take a great deal of stamina, and I discovered a long time ago that it’s best to go with an agenda. Each painting, if done well, is a complete story that takes time to digest. As painful as it might be, it’s important to realize that you’re going to have to pass up some amazing work if you want to spend time with your favorite pieces. I love John Singer Sargent, and the National Gallery has a fantastic collection of his later works. Sargent gained fame as a portrait artist at the end of the nineteenth century, but his later works are travel landscapes. I love each and every one of them.
I sort of think there’s something sacrilegious about taking a picture of a painting. I include a shot of the Cadmus piece as reference, but highly encourage a Google search to seek out more examples as well as Sargent’s work. The rest of the pictures I’m including are my humble, crude attempts at art photography, but they’re the best I have to offer from my trip. I like them and hope you do to.