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Get an insight into the National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art is an art museum in the National Mall in Washington D.C. It is a well-respected and admired cultural museum with art collections from all over America and Europe. The National Gallery of Art had its opening in 1941 and is still quite young when compared to other world-class museums in Paris or London. Let us together take a glimpse into the immense history and culture that this museum reflects.

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The National Gallery of Art was a gift from the wealthy industrialist Andrew W. Mellon to the United States. Mellon was also responsible for the construction of the West Wing and donated his enormous collection of paintings as well. Some of those include works by Duccio, Van Eyck, Titian, and Raphael.

Samuel Kress donated a larger number of Italian paintings in 1939 which included works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Titian, and numerous sculptures. In 1943, Chester Dale donated important works by Picasso and Manet. Andrew Mellon’s children have also been involved with the National Gallery of Art as benefactors of the museum. Both his children provided the funding for the construction of the East Wing of the museum.


The National Gallery of Art is composed of two parts. These are the West Wing and the East Wing. The West Wing was founded in 1937.

West Wing

It is the largest part of the museum and consists of 90 galleries. The main floor harbors European work from the 11th century up to the 1900s and American work from the 18th and 19th centuries. Every piece has been arranged according to their chronological order by art periods and national schools.

East Wing

It is connected to the West Wing through a walkway created by Leo Villareal known as Multiverse. It is a moving underground tunnel that comes with strobe lights. The East Wing is completely different from the West Wing and was opened in 1978. The art collection for the East Wing starts where the West Wing ended. This includes modern and contemporary collections from the 20th century to this day.

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What to see

To prepare for your visit, you can visit the National Gallery of Art’s website and browse through the enormous collection. There are over 45,000 works which are all free to download and browse. The National Gallery of Art has such magnificent pieces of art that it is almost impossible to view everything the first time. Let us help you and list some of the must-see works from both the West Wing and the East Wing.

  • Mark Rothko Room, Tower 1 – In Tower 1 on the mezzanine level, there is a room full of Mark Rothko works. Rothko’s works were very moody and radiant. The primary focus of his work is the depiction of human emotions such as tragedy and ecstasy.
  • Family of Saltimbanques – It is a Pablo Picasso painting who was one of the best artists of the 20th century. Picasso constantly kept evolving his work. Therefore, his work is classified into the Blue Period, Red Period, Neoclassical Period, Surrealism, and Cubism. The Family of Saltimbanques is a painting from his Rose Period work.
  • Lavender Mist – This is a Jackson Pollock painting. He was famous for his drip style of painting. He created Lavender Mist in 1950 in a studio barn in Long Island.
  • Bird in Space – Created by Brancusi, a Romanian artist he has removed the physical characteristics of a bird. He is focusing on the essence of flight. Brancusi is known as one of the most prestigious sculptors of the 20th century.
  • Modigliani Room – It is present in the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art and consists of 11 paintings and a head sculpture. Modigliani mostly depicts melancholy through his portraits. You will notice that most of his subjects will have long limbs, mask faces, and slashed eyes.
  • Large Decorations with Masks – Large Decorations with Masks is one of Henry Matisse’s impressive cutouts. He would take sheets of paper and attack them with scissors, cutting them into different shapes. Once he was through with the cutting, he would direct his assistant on how to hang the cutout on the wall.
  • Jack in the Pulpits – This oil on canvas was painted by George O’Keefe. In her youth, Georgia O’Keefe was fascinated by the flower. In 1930, she executed a series of six paintings of the flowering plant at Lake George in New York. The National Gallery of Art is home to five of these six works.
  • A Boy for Meg – A Boy for Meg is the artwork of Andy Warhol, a true performance artist. He would often challenge the social norms of the day and would display them in his works in a shocking manner. The art is based around Margaret Thatcher announcing the birth of her son.
  • Improvisation 31 – Wassily Kandinsky had a claim for the best abstract painter just before World War I. Improvisation 31 is just patches of color and is a completely abstract painting. Only upon careful inspection of the painting will you be able to find out the main theme – ships locked in combat.
  • Adoration of the Magi – This was painted in 1400 by Fra Angelico. In the painting, he shows the three kings who have come to adore the child Christ and are led by a miraculous star.
  • Madonna and Child – This was painted by Giotto, a Florentine artist who was quite radical for his time. Through his amazing pieces of painting, he would emit such emotions as seriousness. In the painting, Madonna is holding Christ and presenting him with a rose.
  • Ginevra de’ Benci – The only painting of Leonardo Da Vinci in the United States is Ginevra. It was the first time in history that the painting was looking directly at you.
  • Rembrandt Room – Self Portrait is the most famous painting in the Rembrandt Room. Rembrandt was a person who was well-known for his self-portraits. They display a weary but not disheartened look. He chooses to show his inner strength and dignity.
  • Alba Madonna – It is a beautiful and mature work by superstar Raphael. It is a simply stunning painting in which Mary looks like a Roman figure. This painting is filled with symbolism.
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National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

There is also a beautiful and free sculpture garden spanning across a green 6-acre space. It has 17 modern art sculptures and was opened in 1999. On display, it has works of artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Mark Di Suvero, Marc Chagall, and Tony Smith. It is worth going there and having a look.

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Address and Timings

 It is situated at Constitution Avenue NW, Washington D.C. 20565. The Sculpture Garden is on the National Mall at 7th Street and Constitution Avenue NW just across from the museum.

The museum is open 6 days a week from Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm, and on Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm.

It is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The museum has no entry fee.

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Tours, Metro, and Food

The National Gallery of Art offers free tours every 60 minutes. Along with these, visitors can also opt for

Highlight Tour at 1 pm

Italian Renaissance Tour at noon

French Art Tour at 3 pm

You can get to the museum by using public transportation. The museum is just a short walk away from these metro stations – Gallery Place, Archives, and Federal Triangle. If you are pressed for time, there is a map available for both wings of the museum inside.

Onsite there are three cafes and a coffee bar available. Also, through a bridge, the terrace cafe has been connected to the upper-level galleries.

The National Gallery of Art is huge, and you need to take sufficient time out of your day to thoroughly explore it. The best action is to go for two simultaneous days and completely cover everything.

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