Yesterday I had the opportunity to go into the District and spend the whole (drizzly, cold) afternoon wandering aimlessly through several museums before meeting some friends for dinner. My first stop was the Corcoran Gallery where I drooled over Degas, Monet and Rafaelli. Their collection includes modern and contemporary art, photography and the decorative arts, but I tend to prefer the European myself.
Next up was a visit to the Renwick Gallery whose collection focuses on the American crafts and arts. There I was amazed by Wendell Castle's Ghost Clock, (all carved from a single piece of wood and made to look like a clock draped in a cloth...fantastic!) and somewhat haunted by Karen LaMonte's Reclining Dress.
Then it was off to the Old Post Office and a quick tour of the clock tower (too bad the views were obscured a bit by all the clouds) before making it to the National Portrait Gallery. They had a wonderful exhibit of Civil War art; some paintings of battlefields and bivouacs, some of Matthew Brady's photography but a few of my favorites were some scenic views whose subjects had nothing to do with the War itself but were painted in the era and had some strong underlying symbolism.
There were four of them; one depicting a double rainbow arched over a jungle chasm signifying the reuniting of the two halves of the country, another shows a volcano in the distance ready to burst as tensions in the country mounted to a boiling point, and another showed the aurora borealis--the northern lights a symbol of the North's cause.
My favorite though was a painting of great icebergs, painted off the coast of Newfloundland. It was first displayed at the outset of the war and was proclaimed as the most splendid work to come out of the country and a reminder of what the country (as a united whole) could create. Having seen glaciers and bergs in person I was awestruck by his ability to capture their majesty, enormity and fragility all with a few brushstrokes. I was swallowed up in the grandness of the painting that stood nearly as tall as I and twice as long. I could almost feel the cold Arctic air on my face (or maybe that was just the air outside blowing in through the open door!) I confess it made me a tad homesick. (Do you call it "homesick" if it's for a place you've only visited briefly?!)
(I've stolen the image from this website about the artist, Frederic Edwin Church. Normally I'd just send you there to look at it but I wanted you to be able to see it without scrolling through all of them to get there --but know that it doesn't even begin to do the actual work justice. And I encourage you to scroll and see the rest of his work when you've got a few minutes.)
It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon and made me grateful to live in a city where I could so while away my time. What is your favorite way to spend a free afternoon?