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The National Gallery houses an extensive collection of European and American art in two spectacular buildings. In the grand, neoclassical West Building, Rembrandt, Rubens and Gainsborough are well-represented. The permanent collection includes works from the 13th to 20th Centuries, including a section devoted to Impressionism. An underground concourse with a cafeteria, an excellent gift shop and a walled-in waterfall takes you to the East Building. Designed by I.M. Pei, this triangular building is a key city landmark and home to famous pieces of art and other temporary exhibitions.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is located just down the street from the National Air and Space Museum. Visitors stroll up a rising, circular incline and view works by Calder, Rodin, and contemporary sculptors. Special exhibits have included works by such artists as Mircea Cantor, Rivane Neuenschwander, and Morris Louis. This unique building is home to many innovative and unusual exhibits and pieces of art. The museum's collection includes 4,000 paintings and 2,000 sculptures. Do not miss the sunken sculpture garden across Jefferson Drive. Auguste Rodin's Burghers of Calais is a must-see.
Set among the fashionable Foxhall Road estates in upper northwest Washington, the former residence of Carmen and David Kreeger holds a marvelous collection of 19th and 20th-century art. Artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Kandinsky and Rodin are represented, among many other artists. A fine collection of African art is also housed here. The museum grounds also feature a sculpture garden. The Kreeger Museum requires some advance planning to visit since reservations are required to join the docent-led tours, but the effort is well worth it.
One of two Smithsonian museums that feature Asian art, the Freer Gallery houses more than 26000 works from all points of the Asian continent, including China, Japan, Korea and India. These works include Asian porcelains, Japanese screens and Islamic art. The works of American artists influenced by Asia are also featured. The most spectacular of these is James McNeill Whistler's Peacock Room, designed for a British shipping magnate and moved to the United States from London in 1904. The Sackler Gallery is interconnected with this gallery via underground exhibition space and houses an impressive collection of Chinese paintings, ceramics and jades.
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery's focus is the collection of early Chinese jades and bronzes donated by Arthur M. Sackler—a wealthy medical researcher and publisher. However, the museum houses a variety of Asian art dating as far back as 3000 BC. Displays of special note include Persian manuscripts, Indian paintings and Japanese prints. Works from China, Southeast Asia, Korea and Tibet are also featured. Concerts and art performances augment the visitor's tour. There is also a hands-on kids program called ImaginAsia with crafts, storytelling and more.
The Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens is the legacy of Marjorie Merriweather Post, a famous socialite and founder of General Foods. The 40-room mansion dates back to the 1920s and houses a huge collection of art, jewelry and other artifacts that belong to her. View rare Faberge eggs, historic portraits, exquisite tapestries and pieces of china. Walk through the landscaped gardens and enjoy the colorful flowers and plants.
The history of the female artist is a sub-theme in the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which houses the works of women artists from the 16th Century to the present. The comfortable mid-range scale of the museum is ideal for leisurely viewing of the permanent and visiting exhibitions. Painting and sculpture are nicely balanced with the decorative arts and photography.
Famous and distinguished Americans are honored at the National Portrait Gallery in portraits, photographs and other visual media. A wide variety of politicians, artists, scientists and social activists are represented. This gallery is a remarkable testimony to the diverse figures the United States has produced, from Grace Kelly and Boris Karloff to George Washington, Mickey Mantle and Gertrude Stein. Photographs, prints, drawings and sculptures supplement the paintings. Of particular interest is the Hall of Presidents, which features a portrait or sculpture of each chief executive.
The Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, which house's George Washington University's permanent art collection, boasts a whopping 3,800 works of art. The university began collecting art in 1821, and has been expanding its collection ever since. Today, the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery includes some of the most iconic American paintings from the 18th Century, including Gilbert Stuart's Monro-Lenox Full-Length Portrait of George Washington. The gallery also runs the Campus Loan Project, which allows pieces from the permanent collection to be hung in public spaces around the university campus.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is takes you on a journey of discovery of iconic American art and the artists that created it from the 17th Century to the present day. The building itself is of heritage value and designated a National Historic Landmark. The expansive collection is spread out over multiple levels and there is a spacious courtyard where you can take a break. Discover the works of Edward Hopper and Georgia O'Keefe on the first floor; the works of Gilbert Stuart and Albert Bierstadt on the second, and Franz Kline and Andy Warhol on the third. Various art movements and periods are well demonstrated in the carefully curated exhibits, like New Deal Art, and provide an engaging narrative for the visitor to follow. Docent-led tours are a great way to discover the highlights in an interactive way. The Renwick Gallery, the main buildings sister wing, is also worth a visit.
The Art Museum of the Americas works to showcase artists whose compelling works speak to political or social issues. This engaging museum was originally founded in 1917 as the Visual Arts Unit of the Pan American Union, but opened its doors as the Art Museum of the Americas in 1976. The museum boasts an impressive collection of important contemporary Latin American and Caribbean works, as well as hosting rotating exhibits that display the work of both emerging and established artists. The museum also runs educational programs and hosts events like free screenings of socially and politically-geared documentaries.
The Phillips Collection retains the 19th-century grandeur enjoyed by the Phillips family. The collection was opened to the public in 1918 while the family was still living in the home. The collection displays mostly 19th- and 20th-century American and European paintings. Significant works by Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Bonnard and Klee are on display. One can browse at leisure and perhaps, catch an art student working on a sketch. A cafe is also on site.