The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

Out of all the wonderful museums located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of D.C., the National Gallery of Art is definitely right up there with the best-of-the-best. If you only have time for a few museums, be sure to put a visit to this wonderful gem high on your to-do list. With 25,200 square feet of space, the National Gallery comes in as the 3rd largest US art museum. Only NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Chicago Institute of Art rank higher. Fortunately, scoring it a few bonus points, admission to the National Gallery of Art is free all year-round!

Pablo Picasso art piece at the National Gallery of Art East Building in Washington D.C.

Like all D.C. museums, the architecture of the building is just as impressive as the art collection itself. Even if you are not an avid art lover, this museum is worth visiting, if anything just to admire the outstanding design elements throughout.

The gorgeous interior of the National Gallery of Art West Building in Washington D.C.

As one of the largest museums in America, you really need to plan at least a few hours to take in the entirety of the collection. The impressive permanent collection includes over 150,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints. The museum is separated into an East and West building, which are connected via a creative underground walkway designed by Leo Villareal.

One of numerous marble sculptures at the National Gallery of Art West Building in Washington D.C.

The original West Building vs. the newer East Building

The West Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
This beautiful Mercury sculpture atop a fountain greets you as you enter the rotunda of the West Building.

Both sections are impressive and worth checking out. However, if you are limited on time, keep in mind that the East building houses contemporary and modern art, while the West building focuses on the classics with pieces dating back to the Middle Ages.

The West Building is by far the more impressive of the 2 if you are limited on time. In addition to featuring the works of notable artists such as Rembrandt, Cezanne, and Da Vinci, the building is located with gorgeous sculptures and fountains. Plus, the architecture is incredible. If you love classic art this is the place for you! Some art pieces here date back to the 12th century!

The East Building Modern Collection

The beautiful Modern Art East Building section of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

The East Building includes the works of many notable contemporary artists including Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Jackson Pollock, amongst many other artists from the late 19th century through today. The design of this building by architect I.M. Pei is incredible. In fact, just walking to and from the galleries is an experience in and of itself. The colorful minimalist interior is sure to please the modern art lover.

Georgia O'Keeffe artwork at the National Gallery of Art East building in Washington D.C.

A few highlights from Modern Art Galleries

Andy Warhol artwork at the National Gallery of Art east building in Washington D.C.
Jasper Johns artwork at the National Gallery of Art east building in Washington D.C.
Diego Rivera artwork at the National Gallery of Art east building in Washington D.C.
Emil Nolde artwork at the National Gallery of Art east building in Washington D.C.
Contemporary art at the National Gallery of Art east building in Washington D.C.
Gorgeous modern art at the National Gallery of Art east building in Washington D.C.
Jean Dubuffet artwork at the National Gallery of Art east building in Washington D.C.
Jean Dubuffet art piece at the National Gallery of Art east building in Washington D.C.
Max Ernst painting at the National Gallery of Art East building in Washington D.C.
Andre Derain painting at the National Gallery of Art East building in Washington D.C.
Colorful modern art pieces at the National Gallery of Art East building in Washington D.C.
Colorful modern art pieces at the National Gallery of Art East building in Washington D.C.
Cezanne and Picasso artwork at the National Gallery of Art East building in Washington D.C.
Contemporary art at the National Gallery of Art East building in Washington D.C.
Modern art pieces at the National Gallery of Art east building in D.C.
Eclectic art piece at the National Gallery of Art east building in Washington D.C.
Sculpture at the National Gallery of Art East building in Washington D.C.

The West Building Classic Collection

Vincent Van Gogh self portrait at the National Gallery of Art West building in Washington D.C.

The original Western building was designed in the 1930’s by architect John Russell Pope. This gorgeous neo classical building is one of the architectural wonders of D.C. Many historic paintings from famous artists like
Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Rembrandt can be found here. You will find rooms and rooms of galleries to explore here – it’s actually quite a workout to cover everything! The collection includes European, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and British art from the 12th-19th century. Most impressive is the gorgeous interior which features numerous sculptures and fountains.

Gorgeous fountain at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.

Highlights from the West Building collection

Claude Monet artwork at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Paul Cezanne painting at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Painting at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Presidential painting at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Thomas Gainsborough painting at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
The Fall of Man painting by Hendrick Goltzius at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Childe Hassam painting at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Beautiful artwork at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Jean Fragonard artwork at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Amazing artwork at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Washington painting at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
John Singleton Copley artwork at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Sanford Gifford artwork at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Lovely artwork and sculptures at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Gorgeous religious artwork at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Gorgeous mosaic at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Beautiful art piece at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Beautiful sculpture at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Religious themed artwork at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Religious artwork at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Religious artwork at the National Gallery of Art West Building in Washington D.C.
Ancient artifacts at the National Gallery of Art West building in Washington D.C.
Ancient artwork at the National Gallery of Art West Building in Washington D.C.

So many gorgeous landscape paintings…

William Haseltine painting at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Winslow Homer painting at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Thomas Cole painting at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
John Singer Sargent painting at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Spectacular artwork at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Incredible artwork at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Beautiful winter scene painting at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Asher Durand painting at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.
Aelbert Cuyp painting at the National Gallery of Art west building in Washington D.C.

Most notably, the museum is the only in the Americas to feature a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci, the famous Ginevra de’Benci portrait. da Vinci painted the oil portrait of Ginerva between the years of 1474-1478. He is said to have painted the portrait to commemorate her marriage to Luigi di Bernardo Niccolini.

Ginevra de'Benci portrait by Leonardo da Vinci at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

The National Sculpture Garden

Robert Indiana Amor sculpture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

You will also want to check out the National Sculpture Garden while you are in the vicinity. Seventeen amazing sculptures, including the famous Amor art piece by Robert Indian line the grounds. Exploring the beautiful sculpture garden is one of the best things to do on a gorgeous D.C. spring day.

Aurora sculpture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
Aurora sculpture, designed by Mark di Suvero, installed 1992-1993.
Cheval Rouge sculpture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
Cheval Rogue (Red Horse) sculpture, designed by Alexander Calder, installed in 1974.
Thinker on a Rock sculpture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
Thinker on a Rock, designed by Barry Flanagan, installed in 1997. This statue is based on Rodin’s The Thinker.
Typewriter Eraser sculpture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
The Typewriter Eraser sculpture, designed by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, was installed in 1998.
Four sided pyramid sculpture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

The Four Sided pyramid sculpture, designed by Sol LeWitt, was installed in 1997.
Stainless steel sculpture by Roxy Paine at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
The Graft, a stainless steel tree designed by Roxy Paine was installed in 2008.