The art museum is housed in one of several grand buildings along the National Mall and the huge banner advertises the current star of the show: Degas’ Little Dancer.
Like all the museums here, entrance is free of charge and from the minute we stepped inside, we were delighted we’d come. The light and airy spaces were free of clutter and many were free of people too!
Best of all were the long vistas through archways, offering a glimpse of the treasures beyond. The daylight from the overhead windows made the the gallery more open and inviting.
Beneath the central dome was a fountain surrounded by seasonal planting and it was easy to see why this was a popular place to meet or to sit and contemplate.
But what about the art? We were heading for the American galleries, thinking that since we didn’t have time to see everything, we’d have a single goal in mind. I couldn’t resist a quick peek at a few Cezanne works however, having watched the BBC programme about artists and the French Riviera on the plane coming over.
Oh, and passing by the star of the show, of course we had to take a closer look at her. This is the original wax model, formed by Degas himself and dressed in the original ballet dress.
She was actually beautifully displayed and the audience was respectful in allowing everyone a turn to have space to view her closely. No pushy pushy crowds here, thank goodness.
As we made our way to the far corners, I continued to marvel at the way selected pictures were hung to be framed by the doorways.
Eventually we reached our goal and whose work should be one of the first to catch my eye, but Winslow Homer. The Boys in the Pasture is an old friend I like to visit when we are in Boston, but here, Dad’s Coming! has that same warmth and fine detail. The storytelling is great, isn’t it?
Sorry, I didn’t frame this Singer-Sergeant beauty "(“Repose”) so well, but I couldn’t resist the lavish fabrics which, from a distance look so realistic and yet, of course, when viewed at close quarters are mere brush strokes. Emma Freud, your comment accompanying the portrait which I blogged about in London last week sprang to mind again.
With a last glimpse through doorways to paintings we’ll save for a future visit, we made our way to the central hall again, though as we went, we took a short look around a temporary exhibit.
The sight of lace curtains with bird motifs blowing in the breeze from an open window inspired Andrew Wyeth to paint the image. Not only that, the powerful image influenced his work for years to come and many of these “window” works were exhibited here in the gallery today. It was easy to see why windows made for such compelling subjects, because of the light and shade perhaps, but also the natural frame for whatever lies beyond. These smaller rooms were pretty full of both art and of visitors so we didn’t linger. However, I’ll look out for his work in future and will be interested to learn more.
Leaving the art behind, we walked along the Mall and past the Natural History museum, where the skaters were enjoying the ice rink set out in front of the building.
The National Museum of American History is in a rather more modern building next door and that was our next destination. As always, we spoke to one of the volunteer guides at the desk and asked advice about what we mustn’t miss.
So our first port of call was the “Star Spangled Banner” exhibit – the real, enormous, restored flag which flew in Baltimore and inspired the National Anthem. Interesting and a good place to start, we thought.
Well, to be honest, the rest of the museum proved to be a disappointment. Rather than the serious history museum we were expecting, we found the exhibits to be more family oriented and lacking detail.
Julia Child’s kitchen was possibly the most interesting exhibit but we passed by the remainder of the food themed area in favour of the transportation display downstairs.
By now, we were recognising that we were not, perhaps, the typical visitor. Having had the good fortune to travel widely in the USA and visit many more specialised museums and collections, this broad-brush, general approach just wasn’t going to cut the mustard. The Auburn car collection we visited earlier in the year had so many absolute stunners on show that the one single car on show here didn’t really compare. Anyway, when the city offers a Museum of the American Indian, is building a Museum of African American history, there’s also an Air and Space Museum not to mention so many other specialist museums in other cities around the country, what remains to show in a general “history museum” ? My hopes of learning more about the pioneer life I’ve just been reading about in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books were thwarted - this just wasn’t the place for such things. Never mind.
Feeling just a little footsore, we headed back to the hotel, just a block or two away. When we got there, we didn’t dare sit down or else we might not have the energy to get up again!
So we jumped straight in the car and headed out of town. After all, I had coupons for JoAnns and Michaels burning a hole in my pocket!
I left my hero reading in the car whilst I went in JoAnns first. 20% off a total purchase of $50 or more, 25% off $100 or 30% off $150. I had a little list! Finding things wasn’t easy, however and it took a while, even though I didn’t have any intention of buying fabric once I saw the queue to have it cut.
My purchases were more considered – large rolls of stabiliser for machine embroidery then, having done a little mental arithmetic, a few packs of sewing machine needles and other bits and pieces to take the total up to the discount threshold. I won’t say which one!
Meanwhile, my hero had come looking for me. Thinking I’d have finished in JoAnn’s already, he’d been into Michaels next door and encountered such a melee, he’d decided to stay back in the car after all!
All Christmas things in Michaels were 50% off. No wonder people were wheeling trolleys full of fake evergreen trees, wrapping papers, boxes, bags and so much red and green “stuff”, it was very tempting to turn right around and go back to the car. But hey, I had a coupon…
I found a couple of things I’d been looking for, got a few half price stickers for my December Daily album and used the coupon on a small pack of ink sprays before calling it a day.
As I left, they thrust a coupon into my hand!
We, however, progressed to the next row of shops, just around the corner. G Street Fabrics is a well established Washington store and I knew it for quilting fabrics and Bernina sewing machines.
It’s a large store, occupying a whole basement and I had a really interesting (and useful) conversation with the Bernina saleslady who was embroidering an attractive Christmas sampler. I wasn’t in the market for a new sewing machine however, didn’t have any accessories on my list and so there wasn’t really anything further for her to help with.
Looking around the rest of the store, though, everything seemed a little empty, especially bearing in mind the hoohah that was going on just around the corner.
Sad to say, I left empty handed.
This evening, we headed for one of the places we’d passed by last night. The Capitol City Brewing Company looked promising and sure enough, it was an ok sort of place. Best of all, it wasn’t so far to walk, because both of us were a little footsore tonight. Might that be because we walked more than four miles* back from breakfast this morning?
* “It’s not far”, he said.