1123 DC, 1 Day, 3 Museums: The Renwick

The Renwick Gallery is part of the Smithsonian art museums, but it is not on the Mall or directly near it. The Renwick sits on 17th Street, near the White House, north of the Corcoran Gallery. It is not a huge museum, but was more like a residence. What is exciting about it is it echoed, although greatly predated, the Callanwolde (see link video, bottom) in Atlanta. That kind of grandiosity that wealth seems to spread around. This as an odd counterpoint only a few blocks away, to the reality of a McPherson Square tent city aimed against that kind of guilded age wealth. Although this was the original Corcoran Gallery, not a residence. The building was actually the original Corcoran Gallery and was designed by James Renwick whom “The Encyclopedia of American Architecture calls him ‘one of the most successful (i.e. not best) American architects of his time’.”*

The interior stairs leading to the Grand Salon and other rooms, from both sides.

Ryder’s In the Stable (left) and Harvest (right).

In the Grand Salon (shots directly below), you can see two neat unstrange, little Ryders and a few other gems, but overall you will have to have an undying love for things American turn of the century. The room, however is a beauty.

The wild part is while the downstairs exhibition is one of those “no photos” of many object of art from the White House, the real pieces overspilled into other rooms, which were looked as if they were once assigned for living. The structure of museums seems to come from real living spaces, palaces. The Prado and the Louvre. The beautiful great houses in England. The older  Savannah’s Telfair Museum and Jacksonville’s Cummer were once residences and still have the air of it.

Frank W Benson’s Still Life (top left), Carl W. Peters’ Little Village (top right) and George Hitchcock’s The Flight into Egypt (directly above).

No one ever talks about George Hitchcock. I first think I saw his work at the Telfair, and admired his feathery brushwork. So much is said for Morse and Hassan as “American” Impressionists, and Hitchcock for technique goes pretty much unnoticed.

Within the same room as these paintings is Karen Lamonte’s Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery.

The piece of Lamonte’s actually was created in Czechoslovakia. Here is where the fun comes in, like the National and the Portrait Gallery, comes a bevy of Modern and post-Modern works within this very sedate housing. So while Henri and Sargent are displayed in the halls, contemporary artists are displayed elsewhere.

John Singer Sargent’s Betty Wertheimer (left), Viola Frey’s Lady in Blue and Yellow Dress (center) and Robert Henri’s Portrait of Dorothy Wagstaff (right).


 Larry Fuente’s Game Fish (left, detail right).

Lino Tagliapietro’s Mandara (left) and Sheila Hicks’ The Silk Forest (right).

I think one of my favorite pieces was a glass installation by Beth Lipman called Bancketje (Banquet) (below). Layers of glass pieces are stacked high, in a hommage of those still lives done by the Dutch.

Beautiful art, and an interesting interior, full of bygone detail, make it a pleasant way to spend some art time.

With its rose colored walls and stacked art work, it is a history lesson on how art used to be displayed, before white walls and large spaces. It is free, which makes it even more special.

*See Wikipedia, where I took this quote.


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