Saturday, September 23, 2017

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART, MAIN BUILDING

The Smithsonian's National Gallery of Art is world class.  It is actually housed in two separate buildings, one that includes traditional art and the other that focuses on contemporary art.  The architecture of the buildings reflect their respective collections.  The main building is very traditional both on the exterior and the interior, and the works of art are laid out in a logical progression.  The contemporary building--the East Building--has sharp angles and the interior spaces vary greatly in size and arrangement of art.  I am dividing the posts into the traditional and contemporary components.

The entrance rotunda for the main building is dominated by a sculpture of Mercury.


I took several shots of the piece, trying to capture it as well as its setting.  Difficult.

We spent much of the time in the main building in the Renaissance section.  I liked the following two pieces, which were done in typical religious style.  Check out the mature face of the child in the first piece.



Note the texture in this latter piece, which I have cropped to emphasize detail.

The Renaissance section also featured a lot of portraiture, which I found myself liking for the subjects' personalities that the artists were able to capture.  Here are some of those.






More recent was this bust of Louis XIV.  Note the locks.  What a fop he must have been.


Next, a few pieces from the French Impressionist period.




The middle one of this group was a self-portrait of Paul Gauguin, and the last a more familiar self-portrait of Van Gogh.

Finally, a black & white of a reclining nude that I thought was well done and well positioned.


John

Friday, September 22, 2017

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History is a gem.  We revisited it on our most recent trip.  What is one of its best features in my opinion is its use of space: It does not try to cram too many exhibits into its available space.  Here are some of the photos that I took there on this visit.

The central rotunda features the largest elephant of any museum, one that weighed some 27,000 pounds when living.


This was not a great shot, but I did want to give a sense of the size of the rotunda space, as well as to feature the elephant.

Now for some of the animal exhibits.




Note the male lion's hairy armpits!  Who knew?

I liked, too, the following snake skeleton.


The animal world is prominent in the museum, but so is geology.  And then there was an extensive section that covered the evolutionary development of humans.

And then there was the moving replica of the "hands cave" in Argentina, extending back some 9,000 years.

Finally, below is a selfie of Geri and me watching a brief film on the history of the hominid family.


John

Thursday, September 21, 2017

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT MEMORIAL

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial stretches along the southwest side of the Tidal Basin.  I found it quite powerful.  It includes not just sculptures of Roosevelt but depicts the difficult times that FDR's four-term administration covered.

The first major sculpture in the memorial is perhaps its most controversial--one of Roosevelt sitting in his wheelchair by reason of the paralysis resulting from his adult-onset polio.


Here is another photo of the sculpture which features an unusual surface texture.


Of course, FDR's presidency began in the Great Depression, and one of the more moving sculptures is of men lining up for welfare handouts or for the chance to get a job.


FDR's presidency also covered World War II, and here is a verbal panel covering that period.


One of the most powerful of the sculptures features FDR late in his presidency, along with is dog, Fala.


His failing health and the strains on him are telling in his face.


And his hands.


Highly recommended.

John

HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden are part of the Smithsonian system.  I had visited the museum a few years ago and took the opportunity to revisit the venue on our most recent trip.  The museum is just a little odd.  It is built as a donut shaped structure with circular galleries on two of the floors.  Here is a shot of the museum from across the street on the National Mall.


And another shot from the "donut hole" that I liked for the visual lines.


The museum is unusual in the sense that it is relatively small and features a very limited number of artists.  Wei Wei had a major exhibit the last time I was there and had a different one this time, made from Legos.  I was not impressed, and didn't take any photos of it.  I did keep one photo from another artist.  Meh.


I confess to enjoy photographing sculptures more than wall art and spent some time in the museum's adjacent sculpture garden.  But before doing so, I took one shot of an interior sculpture of a nude man.  A bit gross, but it was very realistic.


To give an idea of its realism, here is a closeup of the figure's head.  This is a sculpture.


Following are shots of pieces in the sculpture garden.





Finally is a piece by Rodin, the Burghers of Calais, other copies of which are at the Rodin Museum in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Rodin sculpture garden at Stanford University.


The piece is exceptionally powerful because of the postures and facial expressions of the six figures comprising the piece.  It is difficult to capture the work in its entirety because the various figures are facing in different directions, so I focused on one of the more dramatic figures who is showing his anguish and anger.  The sculpture is based on a story from the Hundred Years War.  Here is the account from a Wikipedia article.

"England's Edward III, after a victory in the Battle of Crécy, laid siege to Calais, while Philip VI of France ordered the city to hold out at all costs. Philip failed to lift the siege, and starvation eventually forced the city to parley for surrender.

"According to medieval writer Jean Froissart, Edward offered to spare the people of the city if six of its top leaders would surrender themselves to him, presumably to be executed. Edward demanded that they walk out wearing nooses around their necks, and carrying the keys to the city and castle. One of the wealthiest of the town leaders, Eustache de Saint Pierre, volunteered first, and five other burghers joined with him.  Saint Pierre led this envoy of volunteers to the city gates. It was this moment, and this poignant mix of defeat, heroic self-sacrifice, and willingness to face imminent death that Rodin captured in his sculpture, scaled somewhat larger than life.

"Although the burghers expected to be executed, their lives were spared by the intervention of England's queen, Philippa of Hainault."

John

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

RENWICK GALLERY

The Renwick Gallery is part of the Smithsonian system.  It is a smaller gallery, located only a couple of blocks from the White House, that features modern art.  The gallery is up a flight of stairs on the building's second level.  Here is a shot looking back down the stairs.


A featured piece in one of the rooms was a sculpture of a nude that I thought might be from the classical Greek era.   I took several shots of the piece, looking for a proper background.  But I had been fooled.


This was not an original but was a copy of a copy.  The original piece, which is located in the National Art Gallery, was created in the 1840s in the manner of the classic Greek tradition, but as a sort of protest of the fact that many women had been held as slaves.  The original model had been wrapped in chains, but the chains were missing from this replica, which was made in 2015 with the use of a 3-D printer.  A close inspection revealed the layers of acrylic used in the fabrication.

Following were some other pieces in the collection that caught my eye.





This last piece was entitled Apocalypse 1942.  Note the Hitler figure.

Finally was a large ceiling piece that proved difficult to photograph.  This was the better of the shots that I got.


I would recommend the gallery to anyone who is in the neighborhood of the White House and has an interest in modern art.

John

LAKE NEEDWOOD PARK MUSHROOMS

Last Saturday, while we were visiting our daughter in the Washington, D.C. area, we spent a few hours visiting Lake Needwood Park, in suburban Maryland north of the city, to do some casual hiking and to look for mushrooms in the wooded park.  It was fun, and here is some of what I caught with my camera.

First, though, is a shot of the path that we took around the lake that is the centerpiece for the park.


Now for the mushrooms that ranged from delicate to monstrous.





I particularly liked this last shot for the gills showing on the underside.  Here is another, heavily cropped image that features gills of another mushroom.  I turned this one into a black & white to emphasize the delicate nature of the gills.


Here, finally, is a jack-o-lantern mushroom that we spotted, which was dinner-plate huge.


One can get an idea of the size of this mushroom by comparing it to the dead oak leaves to the right of the mushroom in the image.

John