For us, what makes Washington D.C. such a compelling destination is its outstanding array of museums & galleries, coupled with so many impressive monuments & memorials. You could come here for years and still not exhaust the list of enticing visitor attractions.
The trick, of course, is to assemble your own list in advance, focus on what seems likely to satisfy your personal tastes, and complete your own leisurely tour. One target on our agenda for this year's visit was the "Freer Gallery of Art", located at the back of Smithsonian Castle.
Our particular interest here was the work of the famous Artist, Whistler (some of whose paintings we had enjoyed, years ago, in a "Turner, Whistler, Monet" exhibition elsewhere). The Gallery's Founder, Charles Lang Freer, was apparently America's foremost collector of "Whistlers" so we had high hopes.
We were far from disappointed ! We got a bit lost at first trying to find our way, having gone through what we think is the back garden of Smithsonian Castle, and then trying the wrong door - but we got there eventually !
While only a fraction pf Freer's Whistler collection is on display, what we saw was excellent. For our tastes, probably the most impressive paintings were what were labelled "Nocturnes" : beautiful evocative works using combinations of blue, silver, grey & gold to illuminate hazy landscapes at Chelsea, Bognor and Valparaiso Bay - Beautiful !
We had differing views on the other main exhibit we had opted to visit : "The Peacock Room".
This unique space was originally the dining room of the Kensington Mansion of a rich English Victorian ship owner, Frederick Leyland, who wished to transform his home into a palace of art. Whistler's contribution was to decorate the entire room as a "harmony in blue and gold" - he covered the leather-clad walls, ceiling, shelving and furnishings with blue paint, gold-painted peacock feathers, gilt relief decor, and green glaze, with two golden painted peacocks trailing a stream of feathers, above the sideboard.
I was not surprised to learn that Leyland found the room's brilliance excessive, and he and Whistler (who never saw the room again) quarrelled bitterly - my "better half" loved it & purchased a beautifully illustrated book for $16 "The Peacock Room comes to America" in the Gallery's Shop ! I couldn't resist pointing-out to her that Charles Freer, who purchased the entire Room in 1892, was ambivalent about it, preferring "aesthetic subtlety to gorgeous extravagance" - judge for yourself !!
Still coping with our contrasting reactions to the rich art we had viewed, we rambled back to Smithsonian Castle, postponing to another day taking-in the various Japanese, Chinese, Egyptian, South Asian and Islamic art pieces also on view in this excellent gallery.
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