Friday, March 06, 2009

National Gallery of Art II

Now I'm really getting behind.  Today I went to the Museum of American History, and tomorrow housemate and I are going to the Museum of Natural History.

So, Flighty, one more artsy-fartsy post for you to endure but there are some photos from today's excursion that you may like, and three I took especially for you - and that was before I came home to find your comment about the NGA ;-)


So on we go:

National Gallery of Art II

The main entrance to the original West Building

A restful Fountain Courtyard inside the gallery

The fountain in one of two courtyards

The sculpture gallery is the spine of the museum, connecting the rotunda and two courtyards.  All specialty galleries branch off from it.

L:  Justice
R: Calliope
(19th C French Neoclassical sculptures)

Bacchus and a putto
(19th C bronze sculpture)

L: Neapolitan girl
R: Painting and Sculpture
(19th C French Neoclassical sculpture)

Approaching the Rotunda
Americans love their rotundae.

An Apollo fountain with fresh flowers under the rotunda dome

The oculus (eye) and embossed dome.  Reminiscent of the dome of the Pantheon in Rome (and by that token, probably the one in Paris too though that memory has faded)

My pick of the post:  a bust of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who in nearly every depiction frowns more than anyone else.
Continuing the Greco-Roman foundation of the building, there were lots of olive trees in the museum's open spaces.

I didn't know photography was allowed in the rest of the museum because not many people had cameras out, so I felt self-conscious then found out later photography is allowed everywhere except where noted and in special exhibitions. missed a load of exquisite Dutch masters and American 19th century landscapes and still lifes.

But each gallery was equipped with those easels used by art students and copyists for anyone to use, I guess.  Each section also had really good free mini-guides.  I have three:  one from the Pompeii exhibition, one from the Dutch and Flemish Cabinet Galleries, and one from Dutch Cityscapes of the Golden Age (special exhibition).  

Here's one from Dutch Cityscapes which I recognized with a shock of recognition because I bought the postcard of it at the National Gallery in London!  (
View in Delft by Karel Fabritius, likely painted with the help of a lens casting the image onto a canvas in a dark room, hence the uncorrected convex effect which today we can duplicate with our fisheye cams.)

I really really like the Delft domestic scenes.  Amsterdam artists tended to paint buildings and civic architecture, but the Delft artists like Johannes Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch focused on the quiet domestic chores in great detail, though Jan Steen managed to combine both elements.  The Delft works give me a feeling of satisfaction, de Hooch in particular (many of his postcards I also bought at the NG London) because of the equal attention to architecture and people, who lend humanity to the potential sterility of a solely architectural focus (I know I am guilty of this, however).

The Courtyard of a House in Delft, de Hooch, 

But check this out, a Bird's Eye View of Amsterdam by Jan Micker (1652):

The artist thought of cloud shadow!


Stay tuned for today's adventure, it was such a wonderful day!


nikkipolani said...

Mmmmm.... I love the quiet of that courtyard. Wouldn't it be lovely to have a room with high enough ceilings to have those trees? How did Jan Micker get that bird's eye view, I wonder.

Olivia said...

Hey Nik - he imagined it in his earth-bound 17th century brain, which is why I am so impressed by the cloud shadow detail!

Selba said...

I love history... I love museum...

so nice to see the pics...

Jo said...

How delightful!

You're not the only one guilty of those sterile shots of art deco facades or interesting rotundae! When I'm photographing a building I often try to find a way to keep people out of it instead of letting people inhabit it. Something to think about!

Love that Neoclassical French sculpture!

michelle G said...

oh wow, I enjoyed this post.

If me and chad ever come for a visit, we will all have to go see it together

steve on the slow train said...

The Founders thought they were recreating the Roman Republic, so we do love our rotundae.

Kathleen and I visited the National Gallery on our honeymoon in 1973. The last time we were there, in 1998, our daughter Anne set off an alarm by pointing too closely at the Botticelli Nativity.

The Birds-Eye View of Amsterdam is amazing, especially since there aren't any mountains anywhere near
(unless you count the ones that show up in Brueghel's Flemish landscapes).

Olivia said...

Selby - been a long time since I did a post like this, isn't it?


Jo - I don't really want to think about it. I feel a twinge of guilt when I try to sterilize photographs - because a certain Austrian art student used to paint architectural scenes devoid of humans, and he eventually became one of the 20th century's most evil dictators.

But I do like to have people in when there's a group of us, or to compare scale, or when my subject is still and the people are a blur.


Mich - a good treat that would be.


Steve - I often think of how Europeans perceive America and wish I could somehow tell them that a nation's "soul" is based on when it was founded, or when its modern incarnation came into being. Their nations as we know them were formed in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. They grew through Neoclassicism also, but were pretty much already developed then.

America was founded in the days of Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, which was also when France underwent its adjustment. It has a completely different "soul". Into that mix there is also the Puritan settler, and America was young enough in the days of the pioneer for that to be part of her soul also. America does not carry the weight of feudalism, the Catholic Church, Roman invasions, Viking raids, and so on - a weight that is manifested in the European soul. Sure, America has her own growing pains, her own dark periods, but they were experienced by more modern people, and therefore carry a different something. Sorry brain just quit.

Younger nations reflect the era in which they were founded. Oh hey, I could have condensed the first two paragraphs and just said that.

steve on the slow train said...

Olivia--A few months ago I read Garry Wills's "Head and Heart," in which he discusses the Enlightenment and Evangelicalism in America. Wills dealt very much with America's soul.

I'm pretty much in agreement with your analysis, though I think a large element luck has to be part of America's success--that nothing came of Burr's Sabine Republic (if he was indeed involved), and Hamilton's desire to go to war with France came to naught.

Glo said...

A fascinating and enlightening post, Liv. I found this link about the Dutch Cityscape Exhibition, which mentions Micker's oil painting as well.

Did you ever see this 'statue'?

Olivia said...

Steve - I have to admit, I don't read much in the way of heavy socio-politico-historical books anymore, though I can absorb such information in other ways. (Go me for actually reading Professor Kaku's Parallel Worlds at the moment!) However, Gary Wills's book does look interesting.


Glo - thanks for the link. I love how we read each other's blogs and it makes us research topics we might usually neglect.

Oh, Glo, I have seen that statue but always forget to reply because I read the comment and click on the links via my email account! But I am here now to tell you that I thank you for the whimsical production - and that it does actually scare me to be part of a real ancient statue. Maybe next time I will try to be a smaller Neoclassical one :)

Way to go on the PhotoShop, Glo.

Flighty said...

Thanks for the linked mention, despite the slight telling off which is deserved!
I like the idea of fountains and flowers, it's a great combination.
That Micker painting is absolutely fascinating!
Terrific post and photos. xx

Olivia said...

Flighty - hehe, I did not mean to tell you off :) but if you took it that way, told yourself off!

Good point, I was surprised to find fresh flowers arranged around a fountain in a public museum.

Just occurred to me that you would like the Micker painting because it is an aerial shot - before planes!

The photos I took for you will be in today's post. I think I have time to post today...