National Gallery of Art, West Building

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Taylor Shelby on December 13, 2005

On a last-minute whim, only 2 hours before we were going to leave for the airport, I decided that I wanted to see the National Gallery of Art. It was my intention just to breeze in for a bit and then go to the museum shop to pick up some gifts. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I am not an art lover. I can appreciate the beauty and incredible talent and I do enjoy looking at art in small doses, but I lose interest in art museums rapidly. That’s why I only thought I needed a small bit of time. I WAS SO WRONG!

Next time I go back to D.C., I will devote an entire day to this museum. It is massive and beautiful and I was completely captivated. The museum is actually divided into three sections, the sculpture garden, the West building, and the East building. The East building is devoted to modern art, but everything else is located in the West building, which is the one I saw. In this museum they have everything, from 13th-century illuminated manuscripts to architectural sculptures of Charles Rennie McKintosh, a 20th-century Scottish architect. I, however, only saw a very small portion of the museum.

When I walked in, I saw a sign that said photography was allowed. Yes, you read that right, photography is allowed. I have an affinity for the study of 18th-century clothing and accessories, so I immediately made a bee line for the 18th-century galleries. Here I proceeded to rush through and take a picture of every portrait that dated from the last half of the 18th century. It was a good thing I had extra batteries. I didn’t even have time to stop and look at anything else, except when I wandered into 19th-century French gallery and came face to face with one of my all-time favorite pictures, Woman with a Parasol by Claude Monet, of which I promptly took a picture and moved on.

After I totally and completely used up the memory on my huge memory card, I decided that I would head down to the museum shop. I figured it would be somewhat small, like the other shops I saw in the Smithsonian Museums, but I was wrong again! It was the best museum shop I have ever seen in my life: huge, well laid out, and full of beautiful, well priced treasures. I love to collect postcards, so I immediately bought quite a few of those for $0.50 each. They also had a massive selection of notecard sets that ranged from $9.95 to $11.95 for sets of 8 or 10. My favorite find was a mounted copy of Monet’s Woman with a Parasol for only $11.95, so now I can look at it to my heart’s content.

Even if you don’t care about art, stop in here and see some masterpieces. Then go shopping. It is totally worth it.

National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden
4th and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C., 20565
(202) 737-4215

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