Author’s Note: I’ve made a list of 100+ events, places and experiences that happily unite people. I’m taking a tour to see and experience as many of them as possible, and also meet up with Society members and friends. Of course, I’ll be sharing these #HappinessUnites moments with you. Or find out more of the why’s of the #HappinessUnites Tour in my article: 3 Reasons I’m Hittin’ the Road. Or find where my #HappinessUnites Tour has taken me so far – and what I’ve had time to write about. If you want to meet up with me, check out my #HappinessUnites Tour schedule.
#HappinessUnites Tour – Stop 14: National Gallery of Art
When I started my #HappinessUnites Tour, I asked our membership if they’d like for me to come visit them. One of the invites I received was from Junell, who is from the Washington DC area. She told me that her happy place was the National Gallery of Art. Art is obviously on my tour list, because each piece art unites those whose souls are moved by it.
Other than the art I made as a child, my first memories of real art were when I participated in the UIL event called “Picture Memory” in the fifth grade. Essentially you had to memorize the titles and artists of famous paintings. The team that got the most painting titles and artists correct won. I was only the alternate of my school team, but learned about many artists and their famous works.
Over the years I’ve visited several art exhibits at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Kimball Museum, in Fort Worth. While art may not be my passion, I have a sincere appreciation of artists — not the least of which because my artistic skills end at drawing stick figures.
I met Junell for dinner the night before we were going to the art gallery for dinner, and learned a little more about her. She’s retired from the Air Force and the government, owns her own consulting company and was about to retire from her current position. She’s even in a story included in The Women’s Memorial. She also cheerfully helped me pass out some of our Happiness Happens Month goodies, and she got me a lovely gift that fits on my phone case to hold things like my drivers license or credit card. It says: “I think I’ll just be happy today.”
The following day we met up mid-morning and headed to the White House because when I asked on Facebook if you wanted me to take the tour there, you said, “Yes.” So, that’s what we did.
On the walk on Pennsylvania Ave to the White House, I saw the Woodward Takeout Food restaurant and their window made me laugh so I had to take a pic. They were closed, otherwise I’d have had to get a receipt for something from there.
After we went to the White House, we briefly stopped at the Library of Congress, which was closed, before heading to the National Gallery of Art.
Let’s begin this Tour article with a few facts about the National Gallery of Art:
There are more than 130,000 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculptures, decorative arts and furniture showing the development of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present. The museum is free to all visitors so you should go. The gallery, dedicated on March 17, 1941, exists because of the vision and generosity of Andrew W. Mellon. It originally opened with 126 paintings and 26 sculptures from his personal collection. Throughout the years many art collectors have donated their personal collections to the National Gallery of Art.
As we walked into the gallery, Junell’s passion was tangible. She also knew her way around the very, very large gallery that I needed a map for. It was obvious that she’d spent a lot of time here – which made sense, because it’s her happy place.
She showed me The Sacrament of the Last Supper, by Salvador Dali, which was stunning to see in person. She also pointed out that you can get so close to the art that you can touch it, even though you’re obviously not allowed to. According to Junell, that’s not the case in many of the world’s largest museums not in the United States. That’s not something that I would have thought about as an art gallery novice, but when I thought about it, I remembered I can get close to the art in the museums at home, too.
As we walked around my awe of the gallery, all of its comprehensive varied offerings had my head spinning. We saw so many exquisite works of art, but the one that stood out for me was The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at The Tuileries (1812). Junell pointed out details that I would have completely missed, like the ornateness of the gold furniture, the folds in his clothes, the depth of the room and the floor tiles. Her attention and appreciation of the tiny details was more proof that this was her happy place.
She also referenced the dates, emphasizing the era things were painted in. This one of Madonna from 1895 seemed so risqué for its time, which reminded me that artist are visionaries often ahead of their time.
We then went to see Junell’s favorite painting, the only Leonardo Da Vinci that’s in the United States – Ginevra de’ Benci (1474/1478). It was in a room surrounded by other portraits also painted during the same time period. Junell pointed out the depth of her curls and hair, the details of her eyes, and the blushing colors of her checks.
She then looked at the other paintings hanging in that room, and said that they were beautiful but looked flat against the Da Vinci. She felt his work was done by the hands of God because it stood out above the others. When I looked at it through her eyes, I saw the paintings’ magnificence in a way I’d have never noticed without her insights. It was a breathtaking painting that was mesmerizing when you allowed yourself to be enraptured by it.
As our time in the gallery ended, I felt honored that Junell had shared her passion for art with me. Her genuine love of art gave me a new experience that will forever change how I view art. Art unites people when it inspires them and touches their soul in unexpected ways. My eyes were opened to a new world of magnificence, all thanks to my tour guide Junell.