The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is one of the most visited museums in the world, welcoming nearly 5,232,000 guests each year (though the numbers may differ now in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions). Located on Washington D.C.’s National Mall, between 3rd and 9th streets on Constitution Avenue NW, the National Gallery of Art houses hundreds of masterpieces, dating from the 11th century to the present day. Most celebrated amongst its extraordinary collection are Leonardo da Vinci’s Portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci (c. 1474/1478), the only work of art by the Renaissance genius on view in the Americas, Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait (1889), and Alexander Calder’s monumental mobile, Untitled (1976). Other highlights include works by Raphael, El Greco, Vermeer, Renoir, Monet, Rembrandt, Manet, Titian, and Pablo Picasso.
The museum is divided into three spaces: the West Building, the East Building, and the attached Sculpture Garden. The West Building, designed by John Russell Pope, houses European paintings and sculpture dating from the 11th century to the early 1900s. This is where Leonardo da Vinci’s groundbreaking Portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci is on display. Unlike the Renaissance master’s highly sensationalized Mona Lisa or Last Supper, Ginevra de’ Benci is rarely populated, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with Leonardo’s exquisitely beautiful masterpiece, one of the earliest known examples of a ¾ pose in Italian portraiture. (For more on Ginevra de’ Benci, please see HERE).
The West Building is also home to The Small Cowper Madonna (c. 1505) and The Niccolini-Cowper Madonna (1508) by Raphael, Titian and Giovanni Bellini’s lush Feast of the Gods (c. 1514/1529), Botticelli’s The Adoration of the Magi (c. 1478/1482) and works by many other giants of the Italian Renaissance. Vincent van Gogh’s iconic Self-Portrait (1889) and Claude Monet’s Rouen Cathedral, West Façade, Sunlight (1894) are also exhibited here.
The East Building, designed by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei, showcases modern and contemporary works. Pablo Picasso’s Family of Saltimbanques (1905) is displayed here, along with Jackson Pollock’s Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist), and Alexander Calder’s colossal mobile, specially designed for the opening of the East Building. Other highlights include works by Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Motherwell.
The Sculpture Garden provides a fantastic outdoor setting for exhibiting the museum’s collection of modern and contemporary sculpture. Monumental works by Marc Chagall, David Smith, Roy Lichtenstein, Joan Miró, Tony Smith and others are displayed amid flowering trees, shrubs, perennials, and a beautiful reflecting pool (converted into an ice-skating rink during the winter months).
Admission to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is completely free. The museum is open daily from 10:00am – 5:00pm, offering the public access to over 150,000 works art that cut across an incredible range of historical periods, styles, and mediums, expressing the full scope of human ingenuity and creativity.