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          Having completed our DVD “Great Courses: How to Understand and Appreciate Great Art,” we wanted to put our new skills to the test.  So we returned to DC, to the first art museum we ever went to together, almost 40 years ago, the National Gallery of Art.  Since then, the museum has split into 2 buildings and acquired more, but we are older now and can’t stay on our feet all day.  We usually choose our favorite sections: ancient, medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and then “all that other stuff” in the time we had left.  But this time, we concentrated on British and American painters of more modern times. We have learned a great deal about understanding the more modern stuff; doesn’t mean we always like it, though.
Since we went over the Thanksgiving weekend, DC was delightfully empty of government types, who IMO simply create traffic and annoyance.  We parked in an underground garage very near the museum and walked the 2 blocks in the freezing wind.  We were a few minutes early, so we stood with our backs in the sun and looked around.
 I’m sure you know that DC was built on a radiating pattern, designed with gun emplacements so as to fire down the major boulevards.  This French design, by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, came about after their revolution in which the people marched on Paris.  It makes the city defensible, but a nightmare to drive in.  Wikipedia does not mention this aspect of the plan and I really don’t know where I learned this.  Wiki thinks the broad avenues were for vistas and landscaping, like Paris and other cities.  But since I am a paranoid reactionary, the cannon theory fits my mindset. The doors opened and we went through the usual cursory search by guards.  I guess we are all used to this by now and it goes fairly quickly.  Sign of the times.
 It was particularly nifty to see several of the master works we had studied in the course.  We practiced looking for impasto [paint laid on thick, usually for highlights]; chiaroscuro [light and dark contrast]; balance of composition; etc.  We enjoy pointing these out to each other.  Sometimes I blather on about the meaning of the work—sometimes I make this up out of the ether—and enjoy people listening.  Sometimes they actively listen and ask questions; sometimes they listen on the sly and are deeply impressed [when they should not be].  All in good fun.
With all there was to see, I think our favorite was Alexander Calder’s small scale mobiles and funky animal sculptures.  The museum has a large Calder in the entry, but these little ones were wonderfully made, and the shadows in the specially-designed room were magica
We had lunch at the museum—for some reason one of our delights in life, though it is expensive.  While munching, we review what we saw and what we need to see.  Then around 4, we have tea and a treat and go back for one last round of viewing.  Then we go to the bookstore [where we often find Christmas presents for the future, often on sale].  Ron bought me a wonderful Japanese-carpetbag-backpack-purse on sale.
Exhausted, we struggled toward the parking garage, where we had spotted a fancy restaurant with the front windows full of hanging meat, presumably refrigerated.  The Capital Grille is very pricey and we felt we deserved it, but when we read the menu, it jus didn't rab us.  So we wandered around the block til we found a place they said they have the best chicken sandwiches in the world, ever, etc.  Potbelly Sandwich Works is very funky, very delicious, and reasonably priced.  Good cookies too.  I had a Mediterranean chicken sandwich.
Back to our small modest hotel across the river in VA.  The next day, we went to IKEA for our yearly visit.  We had the meatball lunch and bought some large flowerpots.  Home, with Sunday to rest up and hide from traffic.

N4 55 Washington DC edition

www.bucklesfamily.net for photos

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