The National Gallery of Art, and its attached Sculpture Garden, is a
national art museum in Washington, D.C., located on the National Mall,
between 3rd and 9th Streets, at
Constitution Avenue NW. Open to the
public and free of charge, the museum was privately established in
1937 for the American people by a joint resolution of the United
Andrew W. Mellon
Andrew W. Mellon donated a substantial art collection
and funds for construction. The core collection includes major works
of art donated by Paul Mellon, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, Lessing J.
Rosenwald, Samuel Henry Kress, Rush Harrison Kress, Peter Arrell
Browne Widener, Joseph E. Widener, and Chester Dale. The Gallery's
collection of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture,
medals, and decorative arts traces the development of Western Art from
Middle Ages to the present, including the only painting by
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas and the largest mobile created by
The Gallery's campus includes the original neoclassical West Building
designed by John Russell Pope, which is linked underground to the
modern East Building, designed by I. M. Pei, and the 6.1-acre
(25,000 m2) Sculpture Garden. The Gallery often presents
temporary special exhibitions spanning the world and the history of
art. It is one of the largest museums in North America.
6 Highlights of the collection
6.1 Selected highlights from the American collection
7 See also
7.2 Further reading
8 External links
National Gallery of Art
Pittsburgh banker (and Treasury Secretary from 1921 until 1932) Andrew
W. Mellon began gathering a private collection of old master paintings
and sculptures during World War I. During the late 1920s, Mellon
decided to direct his collecting efforts towards the establishment of
a new national gallery for the United States.
In 1930, partly for tax reasons, Mellon formed the A. W. Mellon
Educational and Charitable Trust, which was to be the legal owner of
works intended for the gallery. In 1930–1931, the Trust made its
first major acquisition, 21 paintings from the
Hermitage Museum in St.
Petersburg as part of the Soviet sale of Hermitage paintings,
including such masterpieces as Raphael's Alba Madonna, Titian's Venus
with a Mirror, and Jan van Eyck's Annunciation.
In 1929 Mellon had initiated contact with the recently appointed
Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Charles Greeley Abbot.
Mellon was appointed in 1931 as a Commissioner of the Institution's
National Gallery of Art. When the director of the Gallery retired,
Mellon asked Abbot not to appoint a successor, as he proposed to endow
a new building with funds for expansion of the collections.
However, Mellon's trial for tax evasion, centering on the Trust and
the Hermitage paintings, caused the plan to be modified. In 1935,
Mellon announced in The Washington Star, his intention to establish a
new gallery for old masters, separate from the Smithsonian. When asked
by Abbot, he explained that the project was in the hands of the Trust
and that its decisions were partly dependent on "the attitude of the
Government towards the gift".
In January 1937, Mellon formally offered to create the new Gallery. On
his birthday, 24 March 1937, an Act of Congress accepted the
collection and building funds (provided through the Trust), and
approved the construction of a museum on the National Mall.
The new gallery was to be effectively self-governing, not controlled
by the Smithsonian, but took the old name "National Gallery of Art"
while the Smithsonian's gallery would be renamed the "National
Collection of Fine Arts" (now the Smithsonian American Art
Designed by architect John Russell Pope, the new structure was
completed and accepted by President
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt on behalf of
the American people on March 17, 1941. Neither Mellon nor Pope lived
to see the museum completed; both died in late August 1937, only two
months after excavation had begun. At the time of its inception it was
the largest marble structure in the world. The museum stands on the
former site of the
Baltimore and Potomac Railroad
Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station, where in
1881 a disgruntled office seeker, Charles Guiteau, shot President
James Garfield (see James A. Garfield assassination).
As anticipated by Mellon, the creation of the National Gallery
encouraged the donation of other substantial art collections by a
number of private donors. Founding benefactors included such
individuals as Paul Mellon, Samuel H. Kress, Rush H. Kress, Ailsa
Mellon Bruce, Chester Dale, Joseph Widener,
Lessing J. Rosenwald
Lessing J. Rosenwald and
Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch.
The Gallery's East Building was constructed in the 1970s on much of
the remaining land left over from the original congressional action.
Andrew Mellon's children,
Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon Bruce, funded
the building. Designed by architect I. M. Pei, the contemporary
structure was completed in 1978 and was opened on June 1 of that year
by President Jimmy Carter. The new building was built to house the
Museum's collection of modern paintings, drawings, sculptures, and
prints, as well as study and research centers and offices. The design
received a National Honor Award from the American Institute of
Architects in 1981.
The final addition to the complex is the National Gallery of Art
Sculpture Garden. Completed and opened to the public on May 23, 1999,
the location provides an outdoor setting for exhibiting a number of
pieces from the Museum's contemporary sculpture collection.
National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art logo.
National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art is supported through a private-public
partnership. The United States federal government provides funds,
through annual appropriations, to support the museum's operations and
maintenance. All artwork, as well as special programs, are provided
through private donations and funds. The museum is not part of the
Noted directors of the National Gallery have included David E. Finley,
Jr. (1938-1956), John Walker (1956–1968), and J. Carter Brown
(1968–1993). Earl A. "Rusty" Powell III (since 1993) is the current
Entry to both buildings of the
National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art is free of
charge. From Monday through Saturday, the museum is open from 10 a.m.
– 5 p.m.; it is open from 11 – 6 p.m. on Sundays. It is closed on
December 25 and January 1.
"East Building" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Eastern
The East Building
Exhibitions in the West Building
Exhibitions in the East Building
Walkway to West Building and Cascade Cafe in National Gallery of Art,
The museum comprises two buildings: the West Building (1941) and the
East Building (1978) linked by an underground passage. The West
Building, composed of pink Tennessee marble, was designed in 1937 by
John Russell Pope
John Russell Pope in a neoclassical style (as is Pope's
Washington, D.C. building, the Jefferson Memorial).
Designed in the form of an elongated H, the building is centered on a
domed rotunda modeled on the interior of the Pantheon in Rome.
Extending east and west from the rotunda, a pair of skylit sculpture
halls provide its main circulation spine. Bright garden courts provide
a counterpoint to the long main axis of the building.
Dome of West Building, an entrance to permanent Renaissance Art
The West Building has an extensive collection of paintings and
sculptures by European masters from the medieval period through the
late 19th century, as well as pre-20th century works by American
artists. Highlights of the collection include many paintings by Jan
Rembrandt van Rijn, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and
Leonardo da Vinci.
In contrast, the design of the East Building by architect
I. M. Pei
I. M. Pei is
geometrical, dividing the trapezoidal shape of the site into two
triangles: one isosceles and the other a smaller right triangle. The
space defined by the isosceles triangle came to house the museum's
public functions. The portion outlined by the right triangle became
the study center. The triangles in turn became the building's
organized motif, echoed and repeated in every dimension.
The building's central feature is a high atrium designed as an open
interior court that is enclosed by a sculptural space spanning 16,000
square feet (1,500 m2). The atrium is centered on the same axis
that forms the circulation spine for the West Building and is
constructed in the same Tennessee marble.
However, in 2005 the joints attaching the marble panels to the walls
began to show signs of strain, creating a risk that panels might fall
onto visitors below. In 2008, NGA officials decided that it had become
necessary to remove and reinstall all of the panels. The renovation
was completed in 2016.
The East Building focuses on modern and contemporary art, with a
collection including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Jackson
Pollock, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder, a 1977 mural
Robert Motherwell and works by many other artists. The East
Building also contains the main offices of the NGA and a large
research facility, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts
(CASVA). Among the highlights of the East Building in 2012 was an
exhibition of Barnett Newman's The Stations of the Cross series of 14
black and white paintings (1958–66). Newman painted them after he
had recovered from a heart attack; they are usually regarded as the
peak of his achievement. The series has also been
seen as a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.
The two buildings are connected by a walkway beneath 4th street,
called "the Concourse" on the museum's map. In 2008, the National
Gallery of Art commissioned American artist
Leo Villareal to transform
the Concourse into an artistic installation. Today, Multiverse is the
largest and most complex light sculpture by Villareal featuring
approximately 41,000 computer-programmed LED nodes that run through
channels along the entire 200-foot (61 m)-long space. The
concourse also includes the food court and a gift shop.
The final element of the
National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art complex, the
Sculpture Garden was completed in 1999 after more than 30 years of
planning. To the west of the West Building, on the opposite side of
Seventh Street, the 6.1 acres (2.5 ha) Sculpture Garden was
designed by landscape architect Laurie Olin as an outdoor gallery
for monumental modern sculpture.
The Sculpture Garden contains plantings of Native American species of
canopy and flowering trees, shrubs, ground covers, and perennials. A
circular reflecting pool and fountain form the center of its design,
which arching pathways of granite and crushed stone complement. (The
pool becomes an ice-skating rink during the winter.) The sculptures
exhibited in the surrounding landscaped area include pieces by David
Smith, Mark Di Suvero, Roy Lichtenstein, Sol LeWitt, Tony Smith, Roxy
Paine, Joan Miró, Louise Bourgeois, and Hector Guimard.
The lobby of National gallery of Art East Building
Taken at the exterior wall of National gallery of Art East Building
The NGA's West Building was renovated from 2007 to 2009. Although some
galleries closed for periods of time, others remained open.
After congressional testimony that the East Building suffered from
"systematic structural failures", NGA adopted a Master Renovations
Plan in 1999. This plan established the timeline for closing the
building, and planned for the renovation of the electronic security
systems, elevators, and HVAC. Space between the ceilings of
existing galleries and the building's skylights (which was never
completed when the building was constructed in 1978) would be
renovated into two, 23-foot (7.0 m) high, hexagonal Tower
Galleries. The galleries would have a combined 12,260 square feet
(1,139 m2) of space and will be lit by skylights. A rooftop
sculpture garden would also be added. NGA officials said that the
Tower Galleries would probably house modern art, and the creation of a
distinct "Rothko Room" was possible.
Beginning in 2011, NGA undertook an $85 million restoration of the
East Building's façade. The East Building is clad in 3-inch
(7.6 cm) thick pink marble panels. The panels are held about 2
inches (5.1 cm) away from the wall by stainless steel anchors.
Gravity holds the panel in the bottom anchors (which are placed at
each corner), while "button head" anchors (stainless steel posts with
large, flat heads) at the top corners keep the panel upright. Mortar
was used on the gravity anchors to level the stones. Joints of
flexible colored neoprene were placed between the panels. This system
was designed to allow each panel to hang independent of its neighbors,
and NGA officials say they are not aware of any other panel system
However, many panels were accidentally mortared together. Seasonal
heating and cooling of the façade, infiltration of moisture, and
shrinkage of the building's structural concrete by 2 inches
(5.1 cm) over time caused extensive damage to the façade. In
2005, regular maintenance showed that some panels were cracked or
significantly damaged, while others leaned by more than 1 inch
(2.5 cm) out from the building (threatening to fall).
The NGA hired the structural engineering firm Robert Silman Associates
to determine the cause of the problem. Although the Gallery began
raising private funds to fix the issue, eventually federal funding
was used to repair the building. In 2012, the NGA chose a joint
venture, Balfour Beatty/Smoot, to complete the repairs. Anodized
aluminum anchors replaced the stainless steel ones, and the top corner
anchors were moved to the center of the top edge of each stone. The
neoprene joints were removed and new colored silicone gaskets
installed, and leveling screws rather than mortar used to keep the
panels square. Work began in November 2011, and originally was
scheduled to end in 2014. By February 2012, however, the
contractor said work on the façade would end in late 2013, and site
restoration would take place in 2014. The East Building remained
open throughout the project.
In March 2013, the
National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art announced a $68.4 million
renovation to the East Building. This included $38.4 million to
refurbish the interior mechanical plant of the structure, and $30
million to create new exhibition space. Because the angular
interior space of the East Building made it impossible to close off
galleries, the renovation required all but the atrium and offices
to close by December 2013. The structure remained closed for three
years. The architectural firm of Hartman-Cox oversaw both aspects of
A group of benefactors — which included Victoria and Roger Sant,
Mitchell and Emily Rales, and
David Rubenstein — privately financed
The Washington Post
The Washington Post reported that the donation was one
of the largest the NGA had received in a decade. NGA staff said
that they would use the closure to conserve artwork, plan purchases,
and develop exhibitions. Plans for renovating conservation,
construction, exhibition prep, groundskeeping, office, storage, and
other internal facilities were also ready, but would not be
implemented for many years.
The West Building soon after construction, looking northwest from the
North face of the West Building, with the west side of the East
Building and the
United States Capitol
United States Capitol in background
South face of the West Building (2014)
Rotunda of the West Building beneath dome (2004)
Oculus of the West Building dome (2008)
West Building sculpture gallery (2007)
West Building garden court (2010)
Satellite image of
National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art grounds and surrounding
Moving walkway and light sculpture in concourse beneath 4th Street
connecting East and West Buildings (2016)
Center of West Building plaza, looking west towards West Building
Fountain in West Building plaza (2010)
View of fountain from concourse beneath West Building plaza (2013)
Center of West Building plaza, looking east towards entrance of East
South face of East Building, looking northwest from southeast corner
Southwest corner of East Building, looking east (2007)
Southwest corner of East Building during renovation, looking northeast
East Building atrium (2007)
East Building atrium (2007)
List of painters in the National Gallery of Art and National
Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
Gerard van Honthorst's monumental masterwork, The Concert, was
acquired by the NGA in 2013 and went on display for the first time in
The NGA's collection galleries and Sculpture Garden display European
and American paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, and
decorative arts. The permanent collection of paintings extends from
Middle Ages to the present day. The
Italian Renaissance collection
includes two panels from Duccio's Maesta, the tondo of the Adoration
of the Magi by
Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi, a
Botticelli work on
the same subject, Giorgione's Allendale Nativity, Giovanni Bellini's
The Feast of the Gods,
Ginevra de' Benci
Ginevra de' Benci (the only painting by
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas) and groups of works by
Other European collections include examples of the work of many of the
masters of western painting, including a version of Saint Martin and
the Beggar, by El Greco, and works by Matthias Grünewald, Cranach the
Elder, Rogier van der Weyden, Albrecht Dürer, Frans Hals, Rembrandt,
Johannes Vermeer, Francisco Goya, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, and
Eugène Delacroix, among others. The collection of sculpture and
decorative arts includes such works as the Chalice of
Abbot Suger of
St-Denis and a collection of work by
Auguste Rodin and Edgar Degas.
Other highlights of the permanent collection include the second of the
two original sets of Thomas Cole's series of paintings titled The
Voyage of Life, (the first set is at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts
Institute in Utica, New York) and the original version of Watson and
the Shark by
John Singleton Copley
John Singleton Copley (two other versions are in the
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Detroit Institute of Arts).
The National Gallery’s print collection comprises 75,000 prints, in
addition to rare illustrated books. It includes collections of works
by Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, William
Blake, Mary Cassatt, Edvard Munch, Jasper Johns, and Robert
Rauschenberg. The collection began with 400 prints donated by five
collectors in 1941. In 1942,
Joseph E. Widener
Joseph E. Widener donated his entire
collection of nearly 2,000 works. In 1943,
Lessing Rosenwald donated
his collection of 8,000 old master and modern prints; between 1943 and
1979, he donated almost 14,000 more works. In 2008, Dave and Reba
White Williams donated their collection of more than 5,200 American
In 2013, the NGA purchased from a private French collection Gerard van
Honthorst's 1623 painting, The Concert, which had not been publicly
viewed since 1795. After initially displaying the 1.23-by-2.06-metre
(4.0 by 6.8 ft) The Concert in a special installation in the West
Building, the NGA moved the painting to a permanent display in the
museum's Dutch and Flemish galleries. Although the NGA did not
reveal the amount that it had paid for The Concert, art experts
estimated the sale price at $20 million.
Highlights of the collection
Leonardo da Vinci, Ginevra de' Benci, c. 1474
El Greco, Saint Martin and the Beggar, c. 1597-1599
Peter Paul Rubens, Germanicus and Agrippina, 1614
Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon in His Study, 1812
Édouard Manet, The Railway, 1872
Rogier van der Weyden, Portrait of a Lady, c. 1460
Giorgione, Adoration of the Shepherds, c. 1500
Raphael, Cowper Madonna, 1504–5
Giorgione and Titian, Portrait of a Venetian Nobleman, c. 1507
Giovanni Bellini and Titian, The Feast of the Gods, c. 1514
El Greco, Laocoön, 1604–16
Nicolas Poussin, The Assumption of the Virgin, c. 1626
Rembrandt van Rijn, The Mill, 1648
Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar,
Johannes Vermeer, A Lady Writing a Letter, 1665-1666
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, A Young Girl Reading, c. 1776
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Marcotte d'Argenteuil, 1810
Eugène Delacroix, Columbus and His Son at La Rábida, 1838
Édouard Manet, The Old Musician, 1862
Édouard Manet, The Plum, 1878
Claude Monet, The Artist's Garden at Vétheuil, 1880
Vincent van Gogh, Self-portrait, August 1889
Paul Gauguin, Self-portrait, 1889
Paul Cézanne, Boy in a Red Waistcoat, 1888–1890
Vincent van Gogh, Woman in White, 1890
Claude Monet, Rouen Cathedral, West Facade, Sunlight, 1894
Henri Matisse, Open Window, Collioure, 1905
Pablo Picasso, Family of Saltimbanques, 1905
Henri Rousseau, The Equatorial Jungle, 1909
Francis Picabia, The Procession, Seville, 1912
Les Joueurs de football
Les Joueurs de football (Football Players), 1912-13
Selected highlights from the American collection
Benjamin West, Portrait of Colonel Guy Johnson, 1775
James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Symphony in White, No. 1: The White
George Bellows, New York, 1911
John Singleton Copley, Watson and the Shark, (original version), 1778
Gilbert Stuart, The Skater, 1782
The Washington Family
The Washington Family 1789-96
Edward Hicks, Peaceable Kingdom, c. 1834
Thomas Cole, The Voyage of Life: Childhood
Thomas Cole, The Voyage of Life: Youth
Thomas Cole, The Voyage of Life: Manhood
Thomas Cole, The Voyage of Life: Old Age
Thomas Cole, A View of the Mountain Pass Called the Notch of the White
Mountains (Crawford Notch), 1839
George Inness, The Lackawanna Valley, 1855
Thomas Eakins, The Biglin Brothers Racing, 1873
Winslow Homer, Breezing Up (A Fair Wind), 1873–76
Frederic Edwin Church, Morning in The Tropics, (1877)
Mary Cassatt, The Loge, 1882
John Singer Sargent, Street in Venice, 1889
Albert Pinkham Ryder, Siegfried and the Rhine Maidens, 1888-1891
William Merritt Chase, A Friendly Call, 1895
Robert Henri, Snow in New York, 1902
George Bellows, Both Members of This Club 1909
Childe Hassam, Allies Day, May 1917, 1917
Collections of the National Gallery of Art
Micro Gallery, installed in 1995.
Head of a Catalan Peasant
Head of a Catalan Peasant and The Farm, both made by
Joan Miró and
preserved at the NGA.
The Voyage of Life
The Voyage of Life by Thomas Cole
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ISNI: 0000 0001 2375 3994
BNF: cb118666319 (data)
Coordinates: 38°53′29″N 77°01′12″W / 38.89147°N
77.02001°W / 3