Marvel at gems from DC’s top art galleries

Over fall break, my friends and I took a quick two-day trip to Washington, D.C. Neither of us had ventured far from Baltimore since we moved in August, so this excursion was long overdue. . Although I’ve seen many aspects of DC, I’ve never been to the two museums that I think 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 trip to the National Gallery of Art due to confusing closed entrances. We never understood why the entrance was closed, just that we weren’t allowed to enter through the exit, unlike the elementary school students behind whom we lingered. Eventually we found the correct unblocked entrance just across the street.

Now it was time to dive into the museum. We first explored the ground floor of the National Gallery of Art, which contained a wide range of sculptures, medals and plaques from the 13th to 16th centuries. France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States all have art represented in these exhibitions.

Many sculptures were in marble, bronze or terracotta. All of these materials featured beautiful parts, including A man in armorwhich was of painted and gilded terra cotta, and Cupid on a dolphin, which was of gilt bronze. After spending minutes and minutes looking at the sculptures (and getting lost in the museum), we made our way through the galleries of paintings. American still lifes, 19th century American paintings, and Impressionism were all explored.

Many of these paintings were surrounded by finely worked gilt frames. The texture of the paintings was often very vivid, as many paintings had no glass protection disturbing their detail. Brush strokes could be seen as I got as close to the paintings as I could without being yelled at by the security guards (which only happened twice).

Many of the paintings were oils on canvas or oils on wood. My favorite room on this floor was The railroadan oil on canvas painting by Édouard Manet in 1873. Honorable mentions include The old violin by William Michael Harnett and the Wooden schooners at evening on Penobscot Bay by Fitz Henry Lane. Each of them is a painting of different subjects: people, objects and landscapes.

The general atmosphere of the National Gallery of Art was much louder than I expected. There weren’t a lot of pretentious art critics, or bustling tour groups. Instead, I saw many families together and art watchers who engaged in conversations with us about how Miss Beatrice Townsend’s eye portrait follows you.

Go visit the National Gallery of Art. You won’t be judged for walking quickly through the halls, and someone will be happy to take a photo of you and all of your friends sitting on the sofa that rests in the middle of the exhibit.

The second museum we visited was the National Portrait Gallery, which holds, yes, portraits! My favorite art form is portraits so I was more than happy to go here and my expectations were exceeded. Some of my favorite pieces included: Angel by Abbott Handerson Thayer, 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 drawn portraits. The artwork that stuck with me throughout the day was Negative killed #13 by Joel Daniel Phillips. It was unlike anything else and contained an emotion like no other.

The atmosphere of the portrait gallery was very different from that of the National Gallery of Art. It was calm and thoughtful in the portrait gallery, perhaps trying to understand the emotions of the faces permanently etched on the canvases.

Venture away from campus, away from Baltimore, and away from your hometown during the next break period. Go to DC, visit museums and admire works of art. It will be worth the painful train ride next to a lady who takes the silent car a bit too seriously.

Mildred D. Field