Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Old Dead White Men and LL Cool J

The National Portrait Gallery in DC used to be the old Patent Office. Now the building houses the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. Needing a break from the Spanish studying on Sunday I rode the Metro into town and took a little highlights tour of the museum. I was thoroughly impressed and was sorry I hadn't visited it before. The art was great, it was well curated with lots of interesting info, the building itself is gorgeous with a huge air-conditioned atrium in the middle with little walk-through "scrim" fountains in the middle. And of course as a tribute to its roots, it had a super neat-o exhibition of tiny models of antique inventions that used to be housed in the Patent office.

I though the Portrait Gallery would just be a bunch of oil paintings of old dead white men. It did not disappoint in this regard so I was glad to have a tour guide to distill it down to her favorites there. This classic portrait of GW was hanging in the white house when the Brits tried to burn it down in 1812. Dolly Madison, the first lady at the time, de-framed it, rolled it up in some curtains, and stuffed it in a wagon headed out of town to save it. Thanks Dolly!

The Portrait Gallery used to have a rule that it wouldn't display any portraits of living people, you had to have been dead for 10 years in order to get your portrait in there. Not any more, which makes it a great deal more interesting and modern!

Here's Bill, he's still alive...

And here's a nice one of "Ladies Love Cool James" also known as LL Cool J. He's striking a pose imitating one that JD Rockefeller made in one of his portraits indicating he's "made it". And thanks to the crazy vibrating contrast of red and green pattern in the background LL is loaning it to the Smithsonian right now since his wife doesn't want it in her house.

They were setting up for some ultra fancy fundraising event in the main hall on the 3rd floor so that was interesting to see.

Now that our time in DC is starting to wind down, my bucket list is still looking rather long so I've been inspired to get out and be a tourist again. Yay!

PS. One good thing about the east is all the flowers all summer long. For example, these pink flowering trees are all over town and all around our hotel. Anyone have any idea what they are? I think it's a Crepe Myrtle.

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