“Our” Museums

Last week in Washington DC we visited three of the many wonderful national museums there, all available to citizens and visitors from other countries (and there were MANY such visitors last week) FREE of charge.  We were in DC at the Smithsonian Archive of American Art (more about that soon) researching Portland painter Louis Bunce.  But in our free moments we visited the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery, and the Hirshhorn Museum.

I was struck anew how, with each visit, one’s “reading” of a collection produces different reactions…different attractions to the mind and eye.  I offer you here works that I looked at and enjoyed without respect to location, chronology, influence or intention.  Just…here’s what I liked last week.

Aaron Douglas, 1936 “Into Bondage”

Aaron Douglas

lots of things crammed into a space…(and R told me that once, when he was teaching, he read every single thing that he could read in Charles Bird King’s “The Poor Artist’s Cupboard” and wrote them down in order as a departure for class discussion…)

Things crammed togetherheadsartist's cabinet

…comments by “outsider artists”…

Motto FinsterMotto 2Motto 3

Winslow Homer’s beautiful beautiful painting “left and Right” in which two ducks have just been shot and are falling through space…with the hunter and the red firing of his gun  just barely visible…and the beautiful blue wave reaching up…

Homer full painting

Homer L&R 2Homer, L&R 1

Geraniums…Rubens Peale with his geranium, painted by his brother Rembrandt Peale…

Rubens Peale

Matisse’s geranium…

Matisse geraniums

Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis from 1952…un-primed canvas and poured paint…

Frankenthaler '52

Morris Louis

a painted David Smith sculpture “Aricola I” also of 1952…before Greenberg got to it… (era critic Clement Greenberg was the executor of Smith’s estate and since Greenberg himself liked the minimalist approach, he had all of the paint stripped from Smith’s painted sculpture, alas.)

David Smith

George Bellows!!!


Bellows bridge

Edward Hopper…

Hopper 1Hopper 2

Christo’s first wrapped windows in New York…




Gaugghin PinkGaugin pink 2Gaugin pink 3


Dots and stripes…

Stripes and dots

…and another great thing about the National Gallery…comfy seats…

National Gallery 2

NG Stieglitz:Dove

…copyists in the historic tradition…

copyist 2copyist





Calder 3

Degas’ “Madame Camus”…

Degas...Madame Camus

Eric Fischl…

Eric Fischkl

the joys of looking at Marden, Diebenkorn, Guston…

Brice Marden "Cold Moountain"DiebenkornGuston

Betye Saar (the only fabric piece I saw, BTW) “Dat Ol’ Black Magic”


Ernesto Neto, “The Dangerous Logic of Wooing”…fabric, foam pellets, rice…


Rice 2

Rice 3

Louise Bourgeois, “The Tapestry of my Childhood, Mountains in Aubusson”

Louise BourgeoisLopuise Bourgeois detailLouise Bourgeois detail 2

Katherine Hepburn’s Oscars…




William Merritt Chase, painted in 1895, just a year after Salem Photographer Myra Wiggins was in NYC studying painting with him…

William Merrit Chase

A fantastic Shadow piece that I can’t find the artist for…

shadow play 1

…and I could go on…but I won’t.  Think about visiting “your” museums one of these days, yes?








  1. Wonderful collection of pictures and thoughts, I think it is time for a little local road trip for me.

  2. Have been to all of them and enjoy seeing them again through your eyes. One can never see all that our national museums have to offer. I have been to Washington three times and have only scratched the surface – and one is always torn between going back to favorite places or exploring something new.

  3. all that free art made DC such a wonderful place to go to art school and start off as an artist. I tried to never take it for granted when we lived there. Thanks for posting these pictures Bonnie!

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