Washington DC National Gallery of Art Must-See: The Voyage of Life
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, is the perfect place to go for a date, an intimate indoor garden concert on Sundays, or just to peruse around on a rainy day. Plus, it's only a 20-minute metro ride from Mt. Pleasant via the Green or Yellow line on the DC metro.
Hop off at the Archives-Navy Mem' l-Penn Quarter Station and go there to see works from Vermeer, Rembrandt, Van Gough, Thomas Cole, Salvador Dali and so many more.
This week we were lucky enough to grab a date, and explore Thomas Cole's 18th-century paintings which reside in the West Building on the Main Floor in Gallery section 60.
The Best Way to Explore the National Gallery
Before you head out and explore the National Gallery, we highly recommend that you 'don't try to see the entire thing all at once.
Do some research on which section of the gallery, or artist you would like to see, and allow your brain to process fewer images rather than a mass collection of them.
This method will give you time to internalize the messages behind the artwork. When you give each piece the attention it deserves, you'll remember what you have learned long after you go home.
So there you have it, dive into any collection, especially The Voyage of Life, which is high on our list of recommendations.
The Thomas Cole Collection at the National Gallery of Art
In 1840 Thomas Cole handcrafted a series of paintings from his mind. They were inspired by religious repertoire as was popular during the time, and he deemed the four paintings The Voyage of Life.
Today we are going to introduce you to this lovely collection and what the artist has to say about his four painting masterpieces. But first, let's introduce our artist of the day.
Thomas Cole was born in 1801, and this painter is famous for his beautiful oil on canvas American landscapes. He moved to New York In 1825 and fell in love with the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains which inspired his paintings. Cole is known as the founder of the Hudson River School of American landscape painters.
Fun Fact: The fourth highest peak in the Catskill mountains was deemed Thomas Cole Mountain to honor his death on February 11, 1848.
This self-taught painter inspired Americans across the nation with his robust talent and attention to detail. 'Let's take a peek at his beautiful exhibit which resides in your neighborhood- Washington, DC.
The Voyage of Life: Childhood
Thomas Cole’s original analysis describes this painting as such:
“A stream is seen issuing from a deep cavern, in the side of a craggy and precipitous mountain, whose summit is hidden in the clouds. From out the cave glides a boat, whose golden prow and sides are sculptured into figures of the Hours: Steered by Angelic Form, and laden with buds and flowers, it bears a laughing Infant, the Voyager whose Varied course the artist has attempted to delineate. On either hand, the banks of the stream are clothed in luxuriant herbage and flowers. The Rising sun bathes the mountains and flowery banks in rosy light.
The dark cavern is emblematic of our earthly origin, and the mysterious Past. The Boast, composed of Figures of the Hours, images the thought that we are borne on the hours down the Stream of Life. The Boat identifies the subject in each picture. The rosy light of the morning, the luxuriant flowers and plants, are emblems of the joyousness of early life. The close banks and the limited scope of the scene indicate the narrow experience of Childhood, and the nature of its pleasures and desires. The Egyptian Lotus in the foreground of the picture is symbolical of Human Life. Joyousness and wonder are teh characteristic emotions of childhood.”
(Analysis was taken from a plaque located next to the image at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC)
Take the Voyage of Life in Washington, DC
Thomas Cole's initial analysis of his painting is too beautiful to distort. And if you have a day off, we highly recommend seeing all four paintings which go through the stages of childhood, youth, manhood, and old age along The Voyage of Life.
Each one is all the more awe-inspiring and emotional than the last. We won't give them all away, because you have got to take the journey of life yourself to really internalize the beauty of existence depicted through art.
After you leave the gallery, check out this awesome guide to Washington, DC after-hour fun. Or head back to your home at the Vintage on 16th and drink a cold one as the sun sets on our Nations Capital.