One of the pleasures of visiting a great museum city across a broad span of years is appreciating favorite works of art, in person and in the context of a great collection, over and over again. It was with just this objective in mind that Marguerite, Thais, and I started out for the National Gallery today... to see some old favorites and perhaps discover some unexpected pleasures. A light rain at Gallery Place, our red line Metro terminus, and a couple of billboards in the station tipped the scale of preference towards the newly-renovated National Portrait Gallery and American Art Gallery.
Those who haven't visited this gallery in some time may remember it as a rather shabby, uninspiring collection of presidential and miscellaneous portraits. I never returned after my first visit many years ago. Today, drawn in by a poster of a Georgia O'keefe rendition of New York City, we wandered for several hours in the elegantly renovated galleries, and would have stayed longer but for other commitments.
The collection is varied and impressive, with three different special exhibits, any of which would satisfy on its own. The favorite of the crowd (that is, the three of us) was the Halff Collection, entitled An Impressionist Sensibility. In particular, George Sprague Pearson's A Lady With a Fan became one of those instant favorites that one hopes to meet again and again.
Ernest Lawson's Flatiron Building, a small, wonderfully composed winter scene in New York City was also a big hit.
Another exhibit included a special jewel of a different sort - a poem that even I might succeed in committing to... well... memory:
a strange bell
jubilee and knell
Emily Dickinson, 1882
Image: If a measure of art is its ability to inspire it in ourselves, here's my try for the day. The courtyard of the museum is filled with scaffolding to install a glass and steel roof that will make the court a wonderful all-year public space.
More photos from the Smithsonian's Museum of Americ an Art and National Portrait Gallery can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/weibel-lines/sets/