Memories at the National Gallery

Let's rewind a couple decades. Though I'm a current Bostonian, I spent my first few years growing up just outside of DC.

And there are some absolute perks of living near the nation's capital!

Not only did my parents frequently bring us into the city to visit the zoo, walk by the National Monuments, and be inspired by the collections of the Smithsonian Museums, my teachers often took us on field trips to these places multiple times a year.

In fact, I credit my love of art history to these seemingly routine trips into DC — something that I definitely took for granted.

It's here at the National Gallery of Art that I learned to love the cavernous spaces of museum atriums and their cool, marbled walls.

To anticipate the wonders I'd see around each corner, especially when I knew which artwork would be waiting for me.

Where I found an appreciation for magnificent architectural spaces that house these collections and the feeling of contement in that mix of thoughtful silence and slight buzz of discussion from fellow visitors around me.

I think I have always felt at home in art museums, and owe it all to my parents and primary school teachers who saw the importance of these visits.

So, when we visited DC on a quick weekend trip earlier this summer, and didn't have much of an agenda, I knew the National Gallery was where I was headed first.

We first had a brief look around the East Tower, which houses mostly modern and contemporary works.

Mural, Jackson Pollock, 1943.

And then dove back into the main building.

I slowly made my way through each gallery — ducking into the European section first, of course — and marveled at artworks I had studied at university.

Annunciation, Fra Carnavale, 1484.

Madonna & Child, Jan Gossaert, 1532.

The Muses Urania & Calliope, Simon Vouet and Studio, 1634.

Interior of the Pantheon, Rome, Giovanni Paolo Pannini, 1734.

The Square of St. Mark's, Canaletto, 1742.

Still Life with Flowers and Fruit, Jan Van Huysum, 1715.

The real gem of the day was searching the museum to see my all time favorite.

I'm not sure why this painting has always been so moving to me. But when asked what my favorite painting is, Copley's comes to mind first.

Watson and the Shark, John Singleton Copley, 1778.

It must have been the drama and emotional reaction to the scene in my five-year-old mind that triggered a lifelong memory.

Your eye travels around the scene in a circle, starting with the men attempting a rescue, then down to Watson until you stumble upon the shark lurking in the water.

Regardless of the historical account of this painting, you can conjure up a hundred story lines for how this came to be (which is always the most fun way to interact with art!).

Delighted with my find — I was honestly fighting a Cheshire Cat-sized smile when I found it — I perused a few more American and modern painters before stepping back into the humid DC heat.

Green River Cliffs, Wyoming, Thomas Moran, 1881.

Four Dancers, Edgar Degas, 1900.

This Degas took me right back to wishing I was still in ballet class!

One of the best parts of the National Gallery are the courtyards that dot either side of the upper floor.

I so envied the students I saw cracking open notebooks or books to work in these idyllic courtyards — what an inspirational place to study!

I hope I've convinced you to add the National Gallery to your list when visiting DC.

It's absolutely a special museum to me and I'm already trying to figure out when I can go back to spend more time there!

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