Only a few hours remain to see the special exhibition devoted to a small portion of the hundreds of works of art formerly owned by Paul Mellon (1907-1999) before he gave them to the National Gallery of Art.
Paul Mellon was the son of the founder of the National Gallery, Andrew Mellon (1855-1937), so it is fitting that the Gallery recognize the largesse of the family on its 75th birthday with a presentation of Paul and Bunny Mellon's collection found in their home, pieces which Paul Mellon hung himself.
The National Gallery is filled with the Mellons' gifts, including the 88 pastels, drawings, watercolors, illustrated books, and prints which make up this show and are not displayed often or for long periods of time due to light's damaging effects.
The donor gave no thought really to the juxtaposition of the pieces in his home, said his friend and curator Andrew Robison when the exhibition opened. Mellon only bought and hung what he liked, which matches the arrangement here.
Represented artists in the show include Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, Édouard Manet, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Edgar Degas, George Bellows, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.
On the walls are Mellon quotes which Robison pulled from books, news articles, and magazines. Robison described Paul Mellon as a man who had a "gentleness [and] shyness" about him, "reserved [with a] mischievous smile."
"He only bought what he said he wanted to live with," said Robison. Collecting was rather like "occupational therapy" for him.
His favorite artists were "probably" Degas and Homer whose watercolors he liked better than Degas'.
Some of his favorite subjects were boxing, horse racing, the water, New York and Parisian night life, and woman's curves, all depicted in pictures and now on the walls of what used to be called "the Mellon Gallery," said Earl A. Powell, III, the National Gallery's director.
At the press preview of the show, Director Powell told a funny story about the time he was invited to the Mellons' shortly after Powell was hired in 1992 as the National Galley director.
At the Mellons' home, "Murray the Butler" greeted Powell. In one hand Murray held a sheet of paper and in the other, a martini, which later came to be known as the "Mellon Martini," created by Mellon himself, a concoction of vodka and gin because Mellon didn't like the smell of vermouth or maybe it was the other way around.
Whatever, there was some smell he didn't like.
Murray said to Powell: "Sir, Mr. Mellon has made a list of art works on the wall he thought you might like to have, and if you want others, please add them to the list." (!!!!!)
What: In Celebration of Paul Mellon
When: Today is the last day, Sunday, September 18, 2016, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Where: West Building, Galleries 72 and 73, the National Gallery of Art, between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.
Admission charge: Never on Sunday or any day
Metro stations for the National Gallery of Art:
Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza
For more information: 202-737-4215