Notes on Washington, DC ... (April 2011)

Washington Monument & Cherry Trees

A one day intensive walking tour of the Mall with friend J Randall Updegrove. Began with the National Gallery of Art and stumbled upon a pleasant surprise, the Lewis Baltz, Prototypes exhibit. No photography allowed for this particular exhibit, which was being strictly enforced by security guards. This was a fantastic exhibit for me personally, and I'll do a full review on it later this week.

The National Gallery also has a number of other really nice exhibits on view, including Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection. Among the masterpieces on view are Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot'sForest of Fontainebleau (1834), Auguste Renoir's A Girl with a Watering Can (1876), Mary Cassatt's Boating Party (1893/1894), Edouard Manet's Old Musician (1862), Pablo Picasso's Family of Saltimbanques(1905), and George Bellows' Blue Morning (1909). Other artists represented include Paul C├ęzanne, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, and Claude Monet. I loved seeing a Steichen painting for the very first time. Chester Dale gifted this collection to the museum in 1962.



The National Gallery and the newer East Gallery designed by I M Pei are incredible buildings, works of art in and of themselves, as is all of the architecture along the mall.

I M Pei's sketch of East Galley

East Gallery stairway

From indoor art to outdoor art... the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden is not to be missed.This small zen-like setting features works by artists including Auguste Rodin, Jeff Koons, and Alexander Calder. I was particularly enchanted by Rodin's sculpture of Balzac, having just recently seen Steichen's remarkable photographs of this piece at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand exhibit.

Rodin's Balzac

Early in the afternoon it was rainy and cold and everyone was inside, making our visit to the Natural History Museum a crowd fighting event. I had just seen it a year ago, so between the crowds and the lack of anything new to see, this was my least favorite stop of the day, but this is certainly one of the best family oriented museums on the mall. Not to be missed by those with children in tow.

We walked ran across the mall in driving cold sleety rain to see the Castle, and so did half the other people visiting that day... long lines and nasty security guards had us leaving as soon as we got inside, only to realize to our delight that the sun had broken through and it was turning into a beautiful day. Within minutes, what had been a deserted mall was now filled with people. We walked up towards the Washington Monument, passing through Cherry Trees in full blossom bloom, while hundreds of people stood under the canopy of blooms with cameras pointed skyward. Made our way through the World War II Memorial and on to the Vietnam Memorial. Such a powerful and emotional experience watching those who have come seeking the names of long lost loved ones... capturing names on paper with pencil rubbings

Vietnam Memorial

Then on to the Lincoln Memorial, joining the hundreds of others climbing the steps to stand at the feet of Abe and have their photo taken. People from all over the world waiting patiently in an informal system of taking turns, solo or in groups, would move out to the center front of the Lincoln statue and pose for photos taken by friends or willing strangers. (throughout the day I must have been asked at least six times by passing strangers if I would take their photo as they handed me their camera)

Lincoln Memorial

And finally a walk back along the Tidal Basin, lined with the hundreds of Cherry trees gifted so many years ago by the Japanese government as a symbol of peace. Again, hundreds of people walking through the trees enjoying this annual fleeting moment of gorgeous blossoms.

Cherry Trees on the Washington Mall

Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden

Cherry Blossom Festival