National Gallery of Art


May 29, 2022

The National Gallery of Art is an art museum located on the National Mall in Washington D.C., United States. It is among the 10 most visited art museums in the world. The museum was founded in 1937 by an act of the United States Congress, Andrew W. Mellon donated a fund for the construction and its art collection. Samuel H. Kress contributed an original collection of Italian art and over 2,000 sculptures, paintings, decorative art and porcelain by Joseph E. Widener. As a result of legacies such as these, the National Gallery now houses one of the finest collections of Western painting and sculpture in the world.


Beginning in the 1920s, financier and art collector Andrew W. Mellon began assembling a collection of antique master paintings and sculptures with the intention of equipping the country with a national art gallery. After his death in 1937, Congress accepted a joint resolution of Mellon's collection and construction funds (provided through the AW Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust), and approved the construction of a museum on the National Mall. Designed by architect John Russell (who would go on to design the Jefferson Memorial), the new structure was completed and accepted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on behalf of the American people on March 17, 1941. At the time of its creation It was the largest marble structure in the world. The museum is on the former site of the Sixth Street railway station, best known for being where 20th President James Garfield was filmed in 1881 by a Cabinet of Candidates. The creation of the National Gallery encouraged the donation of other important art collections by a number of private donors. Founding benefactors included such people as Paul Mellon, Samuel H. Kress, Rush H. Kress, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, Chester Dale, Joseph Widener, Lessing J. Rosenwald, Edgar William, Bernice and Chrysler Garbisch. The Galeria do Oriente building was constructed in the 1970s on much of the remainder of the land left over from the original congressional joint resolution, using funds from Mellon's children Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon Bruce. Designed by famed architect IM Pei, the contemporary structure was completed in 1978, and opened on June 1 of the same year by President Jimmy Carter. The new building was built to house the Museum's collection of modern paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints, as well as study and research centers and offices. The design received a National Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects in 1981. The latest addition to the complex is the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. Completed and opened to the public on May 23, 1999, the venue offers a billboard for the fixture displaying a number of pieces of contemporary sculpture from the Museum in the collection.


The National Gallery of Art is maintained by a public-private partnership. The US Federal Government provides funds, through annual appropriations, to maintain museum activities and investments. The entire collection, especially those included in special programs, come from donations or funds from private organizations. The museum is not part of the Smithsonian Institution's system of institutions. Notable National Gallery directors include: David E. Finley, Jr. (1938-1956), John Walker (1956–1968) and J. Carter Brown (1968–1993). Earl A. Powell III, appointed director of the museum in 1993, will be succeeded by Kaywin Feldman in March 2019.


The museum comprises two buildings: the West Building (opened in 1941) and the East Building (from 1978), connected by an underground passage. The West Building, clad in pink Tennessee marble, was designed in 1937 by John Russell Pope - also author of the Jefferson Memorial - in neoclassical style, being one of the main works of this architect in the country. designed in f