An Afternoon at the Gallery | The Washington Center

An Afternoon at the Gallery

This week, I headed over to the National Gallery of Art. Like the Smithsonian museums, the Gallery is free to the public; however, it is not associated with the Smithsonian Institution.



The building itself is incredibly artistic, as most of its exterior (seen above) and interior (seen below) is modeled after Greek and Roman architecture; the Pantheon in Rome, Italy being a large influence. Its massive structure and elegant beauty combine to be a lovely environment to spend your afternoon.



Being lucky enough to receive a private tour with some fellow TWC students in the Advocacy, Service and Arts professional track, I found a much deeper understanding of visual art (which is much less prevalent in my life than performance art). The guided tours may seem as if you will not get to see a large variety of art, but I promise it’s worth it to take the time with individual paintings and have someone teach you how to look at and analyze a painting.


Perhaps my favorite of the paintings we spent time with was a self portrait of Judith Leyster (pictured below). It was painted in 1630, meaning that Leyster was about 21 years old when she painted it. This painting is especially important, as it is the earliest work created by a woman at the Gallery. Leyster was a rarity for her time, being an incredibly successful and talented painter, especially at such a young age.



In this self-portrait, it is apparent how confident she was in her abilities, depicting herself in fine, extravagant clothing, holding a palette, a cloth, and a large array of paint brushes. Not included in the description on the Gallery’s website is the most fascinating fact about the painting.


Infrared studies have revealed that the merry fiddler we see in the painting-within-a-painting was originally another self-portrait. In other words, the painting was originally a self-portrait of Judith Leyster painting a self-portrait. A sort of ‘paint-ception,’ if you will. It has been theorized that there may be a reason the paint brush in Leyster’s hand is angled in such a way that the sharp-looking instrument is pointed directly toward a sensitive area of the male-fiddler, though there is no proof.


The wonderful thing about the National Gallery of Art is that there is something for everyone. I’m sure if you asked every member of the group I was with what their favorite part of the Gallery was, each would have a different answer. Keep in mind, we were only at the Gallery for an hour and a half. So take advantage of the Gallery (and the fact that it’s free) and spend an hour or two discovering the pieces of art that speak to you.


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