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Washington, D.C.'s Top 10 : National Gallery of Art (part 1)

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The collections at this immense gallery rival those of any art museum in the world, displaying milestones of western art from the Middle Ages through to the 20th century, including Italian Renaissance works, Dutch Masters, French Impressionists, and all ages of American art. John Russell Pope designed the harmonious Neo-Classical West Building in 1941. The newer East Building is the work of architect IM Pei and it is often considered a work of art in itself.

  • 3rd–9th Sts at Constitution Avenue NW

  • 202 737 4215

  • www.nga.gov

  • Open 10am–5pm Mon–Sat, 11am–6pm Sun; closed Dec 25, Jan 1

  • Free

  • Dis. access


Gallery Guide

The first floor contains European paintings and sculpture, and American art. The ground floor displays works on paper, sculpture, decorative arts, and temporary exhibits. The location of works changes periodically. An underground concourse leads to the East Building.

East Building

The Cascade Café, on the concourse between the West and East Buildings, has an espresso bar with gelato, sandwiches, and other treats.


The East Garden Court on the main floor of the West Building is a wonderful place to relax, away from the constant stream of tourists.



Top 10 Paintings
  1. Ginevra de’ Benci

    The careful modeling of lustrous flesh against juniper foliage make this Leonardo da Vinci canvas of 1474, his only one in the US, a lively but composed work.

  2. The Adoration of the Magi

    This festive view of the Magi at Christ’s birthplace was painted in tempura on a circular panel by Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi in about 1445.

  3. Girl with the Red Hat

    This 1665 portrait shows off Johannes Vermeer’s striking use of color: yellow highlights in the blue robe, purple under the hat, turquoise in the eyes. The luminosity is enhanced by the smooth panel base.

  4. The Alba Madonna

    Unusually, the Madonna in Raphael’s 1510 work is shown seated on the ground. The composition is serene, but it shows Christ accepting the cross from St John the Baptist, a precursor of events to come.

  5. Watson and the Shark

    The sensational subject matter, muscular painting, and expressions of dread and anxiety made this John Singleton Copley painting shocking when it was first displayed in 1778.

  6. Portraits of the First Five Presidents

    This is the only complete set of Gilbert Stuart’s paintings of the first five presidents (1817–21), including George Washington, still in existence. Sadly another set was partially destroyed by fire in 1851 at the Library of Congress.

  7. Wivenhoe Park, Essex

    Light and shade, the perception of calm, and clarity of detail create an absorbing and soothing landscape. In this 1816 work John Constable demonstrates his love of the English countryside.

  8. Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl

    This 1862 work by James McNeill Whistler is a precursor of Modernism, emphasizing abstract forms over the sensuous recreation of the model, the artist’s mistress, Joanna Heffernan.

  9. Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son

    The human figures are part of nature here, fully integrated with the landscape. Curators believe this 1875 Claude Monet portrait was painted in a single session.

  10. Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist)

    This Jackson Pollock composition is a monument of America’s emergence as a center of art innovation (1950).

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