National Gallery of Art Inspiration - High Renaissance
One of the best days of my recent Washington D.C. holiday was spent at the National Gallery of Art. I was there from open to close one day exploring the West buildings' galleries which is where the classic paintings of Europe and North America are hung.
To start off there is a large selection of works from various periods of the Renaissance, which includes the only Leonardo in America. But my favorite high Renaissance painting was Raphael's "Alba Madonna".
Seeing a work like that in person really gives one an appreciation for the quality of the paint surface and the glaze technique (called "sfumato") that no reproduction can capture. Certain areas are so thinly applied in glazes that it's a wonder the illusion of three dimensional form can be achieved so beautifully. Not to mention the amazing color. And there's scarcely a brush stroke to be found anywhere.
By the way, the cast shadows on these images is from that ornate frame, which was just honkin' huge and awesome in itself. I didn't use flash in my photography (scroll down to see my last post concerning that), but paid the price because I didn't bring a mono-pod and could not hold the camera steady enough in the low light of these rooms to get a really sharp image.
In general I think I like Raphael's paintings better than most of the High Renaissance work I see in books and museums. It's a pity he had to die so soon (at only 27). Raphael's figures are a bit more natural than Michelangelo's, and the colors of this particular Madonna more vivid than any Leonardo painting I've seen.
Speaking of vivid color, there were some fantastic Titian's on view in the next few rooms.
We'll look at those a little closer next time.