Monday, July 31, 2017

Washington, D.C. MUSEUMS ON THE MALL

Alexander Calder mobile at the entrance to the East Wing of the National Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. is a city designed for tourists, especially around the National Mall. On a warm sunny day at the end of April I spent a day walking the Mall, visiting a number of the many museums. I took the Metro from my hotel in Bethesda, and got off at the Smithsonian station, not far from the “castle” that was the first Smithsonian museum, and now the headquarters for what has sometimes been called “our nation’s attic”. Nineteen museums and galleries, as well as the National Zoological Park, make up the Smithsonian museums and eleven are on the National Mall, the park that runs between the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capitol. Obviously, I did not have time to visit all of them in one day, but I did stop in at several.
Brushstroke, sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein in front of Hirshhorn Museum
 My focus for the day was art museums, the first being the Hirshhorn Museum, which specializes in contemporary art and was featuring a large exhibit by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama called Infinity Mirrors. (See my post for last week.) In a futuristic looking building, shaped like a giant donut, the galleries form a circle around a large open courtyard.
Natural History Museum viewed from Hirshhorn Museum window (dots are an extension of the Kusama exhibit)
From the upstairs windows one can look across the mall to the Natural History Museum and the Museum of American History, both favorites of mine but not on my list for the day.
Frederic Bazille was a French painter in the early days of the Impressionist movement
I then crossed the Mall and walked through the National Art Gallery, with its much more formal display of traditional art from various historic periods (including a perennial favorite, Young Dancer by Degas), for lunch at the cafeteria on the ground level. In a small gallery on that level I visited an interesting exhibit of early impressionists, focusing on the French artist Frederic Bazille.  I then rode the level walkway through the long underground corridor to the East Wing where one of the featured exhibits was of the work of sculptor Alexander Calder, with giant mobiles hanging overhead and smaller pieces displayed below.
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of Asian Art
Then, as I circled back across the mall to the Metro Station, I stopped at two smaller museums in facing symmetrical buildings–the Museum of African Art, where I stopped to view some of the masks and to enjoy the air conditioning, and the Freer/Sackler Museum, which specializes in Asian art. The special exhibit there was of a newly discovered painting by a eighteenth century Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro, one of three large panels he had painted of geisha life.
In late April spring flowers were at their height in the Smithsonian gardens
All along the mall, between the museums, are many beautiful gardens, with shady paths, benches for resting, and labels to identify the plants. It was a lovely spring day and in between my museum visits it was a pleasure just to walk outdoors and enjoy the sunshine and spring flowers.

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