Thursday, August 18, 2011

Smithsonian Highlights

During my recent trip to Washington, DC, I spent an entire day visiting the Smithsonian.   What fun!  Here is a virtual travelogue.


My first stop was the Freer Gallery of Art.  The James Whistler Peacock Room, featured on the cover of the visitor's guidebook, was breathtakingly beautiful!   The room was restored to its appearance in 1908.  The walls are deep teal color, with over-the-top gold accents, and shelf after shelf of beautiful pottery. 

I then ventured to the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, where I enjoyed the understated paintings of Edward Hopper, and a room full of colorful and perfectly balanced Alexander Calder mobiles.  I then backtracked to "The Castle"---the red brick Medieval Revival building designed by James Renwick Jr., which really does look like a castle, where I had a tasty salad in the café and did some souvenir shopping.


After the brief refueling stop, I trekked across the mall to visit the American History Museum.  The lower level transportation exhibit was narrated by a Click and Clack of NPR Car Talk fame.  Big old "woody" station wagons and a real locomotive, and some "cool cars" from the early 1960's were included in that exhibit.  I still wonder how they managed to get them into that space.  My son's theory is that they took them apart and reassembled them, MIT style. 

Next stop, an exhibit of First Lady Inaugural Gowns, from Mamie Eisenhower through Michelle Obama!  My favorite was Hilary Clinton's purple gown with gorgeous lace overlays.  Then I was off to visit Julia Child's kitchen.  Since I'd seen the movie Julie and Julia, it seemed quite familiar!  My mom's kitchen was that same strange late 40's green.  Hmmm.  Must have been the Pantone color of the year back in the day.


I then ambled down the street to the American Art Museum, where I saw a special exhibit entitled To Make A World:  George Ault and 1940s America.  Other fun finds in the art museum included: a huge neon map of the United States with separate video segments playing within each state's neon boundaries; caricatures of Warren Buffet and Alan Greenspan; and a third floor tile floor that resembled a Hawaiian appliqué quilt in browns, tans and blues.


The final stop was the National Portrait Gallery, where I fell in love with Georgia O'Keefe's Manhattan painting – a huge piece that seemed so angular and abstract, compared to her well-known oversized floral works—but look closely and you will see three of her signature blooms sprinkled across the canvas.    And finally, a visit to a tiny little room full of candid snapshots of artists just hanging out, called Little Pictures Big Lives.  Susan Stamberg had done a short feature on this exhibit for NPR.


By the end of the day, I had tired feet and a mild case of sensory overload.  I had gorged myself on a smorgasbord of art and design!!



LeAnn aka pasqueflower


  1. I am sooo jealous! I have yet to get to the Smithsonian, but I think I could spend weeks looking!I'd have to go alone so nobody would rush me! Great post. Julia

  2. That sounds like a great trip! I have always wanted to go to the Smithsoian. Maybe someday......