Saturday, July 24, 2010

National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery  shares a block-size building with the American Art Museum, and it's one of my favorite places in DC. Before it was bought and renovated by the Smithsonian, the place was known as the Old Patent Office. It's built around a wide courtyard that's now covered by a stunning glass canopy, and each floor has large, airy galleries, and interesting nooks and crannies and hallways. And there are several cafes and an excellent gift shop (that you don't need to exit through). And, bless their hearts, in the part of the gallery dealing with presidential images there are several works by great cartoonists, including Pat Oliphant, Ed Sorel and Mort Drucker. There've been some great retrospective shows in past years by Oliphant and Sorel too.

So all that said, I'm not sure why I'm picking on it here. But it is sometimes more fun to make fun of things you like than things you hate.


When I drew this several years ago I remember not liking it much and now I'm not sure why. I wouldn't mind drawing Cul de Sac with some of the same grotesquery I got out of some of these figures, and someday I just might. And I really like the painting of G. Washington, who's always fun to draw.

In recent years they've had some excellent shows at the NPG, including a selection of works from the National Portrait Gallery in London and a terrific show of Saul Steinberg's work that I saw often enough that every piece is still stuck in my head. So if you're in DC, go visit the Portrait Gallery right now, no matter what this stupid cartoon says.

5 comments:

Stephen said...

Now I want to go to D.C. again. The Washington drawing is excellent!

Karen said...

Plus it's free and open late unlike many of the other D.C. museums (or at least it was two summers ago). I thought it was fascinating, like discovering the biographies section in the library.

Don Moyer said...

It's open late. Upstairs there are great innocent artworks by just plain folks. And right now there's a Norman Rockwell show with pencil drawings along with the paintings.

Dan Steffan said...

That was always one of my favorite museums in D.C. I'd often go there just to wander and see the new acquisitions. It was a great chance to see a Covarrubias original or a Ralph Barton. And they used to do those great TIME magazine cover exhibits. What a great place.

Unfortunately, it was closed for the last few years I lived around D.C. and only reopened after I moved away. (I think they were trying to tell me something.) Thanks for reminding me what a great place it is.

Bhob said...

Alfred E. Neuman, not Newman, but then I guess both are imaginary.

The National Portrait Gallery blog is Face to Face.

I was only there a few times, but what a wonderful museum!

Bhob @ Potrzebie