The original vintage postcard read “The new National Museum is under the direction of the Smithsonian Institution and is supported by annual appropriations by Congress.” At the time, the director of the Smithsonian was initially in charge of the new museum, however, later this was not so.
The building shown in this postcard is actually known as the National Gallery of Art, a national museum of art located on the Washington Mall in Washington, D.C. The museum has always been open to the public, free of charge.
This building was originally financed by Andrew W. Mellon, near the end of his life in 1937. Although he had disagreements with then President Roosevelt and his economic policies, Mellon felt strongly about leaving an endowment for the public. He had collected fine and rare paintings most of his life, these he donated to open the museum along with financing the initial construction of this beautiful building.
Andrew Mellon formally approached Congress and offered to build the new art gallery. An Act of Congress accepted Mellon’s offer including his fine art collection and the necessary funds which were provided through a trust that Mellon established. The new, National Gallery of Art, to built on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. was not to be run by the Smithsonian, but was to be self-governing.
The Smithsonian had a building and art collection that had been referred to as “National Gallery of Art,” but renamed their collection which is now known as the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Today, the National Gallery of Art is composed of two buildings that are connected via an underground passageway. The building shown here, completed in 1941, is known as the West Wing, while the newer building, completed in 1978 is known as the East Wing. The West Wing is made of pink, Tennessee marble and was designed by architect, John Russell Pope, designer of the Jefferson Memorial. The East Wing, designed by architect I. M. Pei, is very modern in geometrical shapes.
Together the West and East Wing buildings form the National Gallery of Art and each holds vast and rare collections of paintings, sculpture, and other forms of art. The West Wing contains paintings and sculptures by European masters such as Jan Vermeer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, and Leonardo da Vinci, along with American masters from the 1700s through early 1900s. While the East Wing holds modern and contemporary art, with a collection including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Alexander Calder. The East Building also contains the main offices of the National Gallery of Art employees.
Washington, D.C. should be visited at least once by everyone in this country. We should all see these grand institutions that hold our best and brightest ideas and creations. The National Gallery of Art is not the least of which should be seen as it is not only a beautiful and grand building but full of the some of the world’s most beautiful artwork.