The National Gallery of Art

I ate my lunch at my desk today (I know, how sad) so I spent an hour at the National Gallery of Art. They've put up a few new exhibitions since I was last in town and so I decided to have a look.

The National Gallery is unlike the other museums on the Mall. I love the peace, the soft quiet that surrounds me when I enter the main doors. The NGA is a sanctuary from the museum I work at, which is filled with loud schoolchildren, flashy cameras, and unfashionable mid-Westerners who like to touch the airplanes (that's a no-no).

At the center of the NGA's atrium is a circular fountain with a statue of Hermes adorning the top. He points skyward, leading your eyes up towards the brilliant marble dome overhead. Currently, the fountain is surrounded by beautiful fresh flowers--yellow daffodils, tulips, mums, and my favorite, hydrangeas. The flowers give off a clean and light scent, sweeping away any thoughts of winter and snow.

One of the newest exhibitions is a collection of bird etchings by
John James Audobon. A collection of pictures of birds doesn't sound like the most fascinating exhibit, but I went anyways because I've always been an animal lover--and I do like birds. The etchings themselves were finely executed. All of the birds were depicted in life-size proportions so I got a sense of how big these animals actually are. My favorite was the pelican, whose flesh Audubon described as "rank, fleshy, and nauseous...unfit for eating." Mmmm, fresh pelican. I'm sure nothing beats that taste.

The Audubon exhibit is adjacent to the sculpture galleries so I decided to take a stroll through them. I've been through these rooms many times, but I stumbled upon something new during this visit. I must have winded myself along a new path because I found myself in a Versailles-looking chamber, full of gilded paintings and delicate vases. I felt like I was right back in Paris.

On my way out I also caught a glimpse of three Vermeer paintings, which is quite an acquisitioning feat for the NGA. How many Vermeers' are there in the world? Something like forty? And to think, there are three of them right in a row, right here in Washington, D.C.

I came to appreciate sculpture during my study abroad in London. Before then, I thought sculpture was boring--just a bunch of static marble statues in fixed poses. But in London, my professor Dr. Marshall taught us to appreciate the 3D quality of sculpture, of how it changes when you walk around it or view it from different angles. I became obsessed with Bernini, whose Apollo and Daphne and The Rape of Persephone are about the most breathaking pieces of sculpture--of art-- that I have ever seen. Anyway, I bring up Bernini because they have a bust of his in the National Gallery. It's not an Apollo and Daphne by any means, but the bust exhibits the intricate detail that Bernini is so well-known for.

I thought a lot about my London semester abroad when I walked around the National Gallery. Now wasn't that the life? I spent my days visiting museums, shopping at trendy stores, and watching plays and musicals. If only that could last forever... But, at least I have a job where I can have a little taste of that everyday.