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!
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.
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.
The original West Building vs. the newer East 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 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.
A few highlights from Modern Art Galleries
The West Building Classic Collection
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.
Highlights from the West Building collection
So many gorgeous landscape paintings…
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.
The National Sculpture Garden
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.