Sir John Wyndham Pope-Hennessy, was a British art historian and Director of the British Museum. He was a scholar of Italian Renaissance art. Many of his writings, including the tripartite Introduction to Italian Sculpture and his magnum opus, Donatello: Sculptor, are regarded as classics in the field. Pope-Hennessy was born into an Irish Catholic family in Belgravia, London, to Major-General Richard Pope-Hennessy and Dame Una Pope-Hennessy, the daughter of Arthur Birch, Lieutenant-Governor of Ceylon, he was the elder of two sons. Pope-Hennessy was educated at Downside School, a Roman Catholic boarding independent school for boys, in the village of Stratton-on-the-Fosse in Somerset, followed by Balliol College at the University of Oxford, where he read modern history. At Oxford, he was introduced by Logan Pearsall Smith to Kenneth Clark, who became a mentor to the young Pope-Hennessy. Upon graduation, Pope-Hennessy embarked on what he referred to as his Wanderjahre, travelling in continental Europe and becoming acquainted with its great art collections, both public and private.
Between 1955 and 1963, Pope-Hennessy's Introduction to Italian Sculpture was published in three volumes, covering Gothic and High Renaissance and Baroque sculpture. It has been said of these that "few books have dominated their field of study so or for so long". Pope-Hennessy served as the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum between 1967 and 1973, as the director of the British Museum from 1974 until 1976, his nickname to staff was "the Pope". Traumatised by the murder of his gay brother James in January 1974, Pope-Hennessy left the British Museum after only two years as director, he withdrew to Tuscany, but was enticed by an offer from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to head its department of European painting, moved to New York. He combined this curatorial post with a professorship at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, enjoyed mixing with the city's high society, his apartment was known to be lavishly furnished and he is said to have owned a large porphyry table. Pope-Hennessy retired at 75 and moved permanently to Florence with his lover Michael Mallon, at Palazzo Canigiani, where he died five years later.
He is buried in the Cimitero Evangelico degli Allori in the southern suburb of Florence, Italy. A Lecture on Nicholas Hilliard, London, 1949 Introduction to Italian Sculpture. 3 vol. in 5. London, 1955–63 Donatello: Sculptor. London, 1993 Essays on Italian Sculpture. London, 1968 Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. 3 vol. London: HMSO, 1964 Italian Paintings in the Robert Lehman Collection, 1987, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, ISBN 0870994794. "Hennessy, Sir John Wyndham Pope". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/55258. Remarks made at the reception honoring Sir John Pope-Hennessy, a digitized 16 page work from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries Finding aid for the John Pope-Hennessy papers at the Getty Research Institute
Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions. It is one of the plastic arts. Durable sculptural processes used carving and modelling, in stone, ceramics and other materials but, since Modernism, there has been an complete freedom of materials and process. A wide variety of materials may be worked by removal such as carving, assembled by welding or modelling, or molded or cast. Sculpture in stone survives far better than works of art in perishable materials, represents the majority of the surviving works from ancient cultures, though conversely traditions of sculpture in wood may have vanished entirely. However, most ancient sculpture was brightly painted, this has been lost. Sculpture has been central in religious devotion in many cultures, until recent centuries large sculptures, too expensive for private individuals to create, were an expression of religion or politics; those cultures whose sculptures have survived in quantities include the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean and China, as well as many in Central and South America and Africa.
The Western tradition of sculpture began in ancient Greece, Greece is seen as producing great masterpieces in the classical period. During the Middle Ages, Gothic sculpture represented the agonies and passions of the Christian faith; the revival of classical models in the Renaissance produced famous sculptures such as Michelangelo's David. Modernist sculpture moved away from traditional processes and the emphasis on the depiction of the human body, with the making of constructed sculpture, the presentation of found objects as finished art works. A basic distinction is between sculpture in the round, free-standing sculpture, such as statues, not attached to any other surface, the various types of relief, which are at least attached to a background surface. Relief is classified by the degree of projection from the wall into low or bas-relief, high relief, sometimes an intermediate mid-relief. Sunk-relief is a technique restricted to ancient Egypt. Relief is the usual sculptural medium for large figure groups and narrative subjects, which are difficult to accomplish in the round, is the typical technique used both for architectural sculpture, attached to buildings, for small-scale sculpture decorating other objects, as in much pottery and jewellery.
Relief sculpture may decorate steles, upright slabs of stone also containing inscriptions. Another basic distinction is between subtractive carving techniques, which remove material from an existing block or lump, for example of stone or wood, modelling techniques which shape or build up the work from the material. Techniques such as casting and moulding use an intermediate matrix containing the design to produce the work; the term "sculpture" is used to describe large works, which are sometimes called monumental sculpture, meaning either or both of sculpture, large, or, attached to a building. But the term properly covers many types of small works in three dimensions using the same techniques, including coins and medals, hardstone carvings, a term for small carvings in stone that can take detailed work; the large or "colossal" statue has had an enduring appeal since antiquity. Another grand form of portrait sculpture is the equestrian statue of a rider on horse, which has become rare in recent decades.
The smallest forms of life-size portrait sculpture are the "head", showing just that, or the bust, a representation of a person from the chest up. Small forms of sculpture include the figurine a statue, no more than 18 inches tall, for reliefs the plaquette, medal or coin. Modern and contemporary art have added a number of non-traditional forms of sculpture, including sound sculpture, light sculpture, environmental art, environmental sculpture, street art sculpture, kinetic sculpture, land art, site-specific art. Sculpture is an important form of public art. A collection of sculpture in a garden setting can be called a sculpture garden. One of the most common purposes of sculpture is in some form of association with religion. Cult images are common in many cultures, though they are not the colossal statues of deities which characterized ancient Greek art, like the Statue of Zeus at Olympia; the actual cult images in the innermost sanctuaries of Egyptian temples, of which none have survived, were evidently rather small in the largest temples.
The same is true in Hinduism, where the simple and ancient form of the lingam is the most common. Buddhism brought the sculpture of religious figures to East Asia, where there seems to have been no earlier equivalent tradition, though again simple shapes like the bi and cong had religious significance. Small sculptures as personal possessions go back to the earliest prehistoric art, the use of large sculpture as public art to impress the viewer with the power of a ruler, goes back at least to the Great Sphinx of some 4,500 years ago. In archaeology and art history the appearance, sometimes disappearance, of large or monumental sculpture in a culture is regarded as of great significance, though tracing the emergence is complicated by the presumed existence of sculpture in wood and other perishable materials of which no record remains; the ability to s
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, more Leonardo da Vinci or Leonardo, was an Italian polymath of the Renaissance whose areas of interest included invention, painting, architecture, music, engineering, anatomy, astronomy, writing and cartography. He has been variously called the father of palaeontology and architecture, he is considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute and tank, he epitomised the Renaissance humanist ideal. Many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the "Universal Genius" or "Renaissance Man", an individual of "unquenchable curiosity" and "feverishly inventive imagination", he is considered one of the most diversely talented individuals to have lived. According to art historian Helen Gardner, the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent in recorded history, "his mind and personality seem to us superhuman, while the man himself mysterious and remote". Marco Rosci notes that, while there is much speculation regarding his life and personality, his view of the world was logical rather than mysterious, although the empirical methods he employed were unorthodox for his time.
Leonardo was born out of wedlock to notary Piero da Vinci and a peasant woman named Caterina in Vinci in the region of Florence, he was educated in the studio of Florentine painter Andrea del Verrocchio. Much of his earlier working life was spent in the service of Ludovico il Moro in Milan, he worked in Rome and Venice, he spent his last years in France at the home awarded to him by Francis I of France. Leonardo is renowned as a painter; the Mona Lisa is the most famous of his works and the most parodied portrait, The Last Supper is the most reproduced religious painting of all time. His drawing of the Vitruvian Man is regarded as a cultural icon, being reproduced on items as varied as the euro coin, T-shirts, his painting Salvator Mundi sold for $450.3 million at a Christie's auction in New York on 15 November 2017, the highest price paid for a work of art. 15 of his paintings have survived. These few works compose a contribution to generations of artists rivalled only by that of his contemporary Michelangelo, together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams, his thoughts on the nature of painting.
Leonardo is revered for his technological ingenuity. He conceptualised flying machines, a type of armoured fighting vehicle, concentrated solar power, an adding machine, the double hull. Few of his designs were constructed or feasible during his lifetime, as the modern scientific approaches to metallurgy and engineering were only in their infancy during the Renaissance; some of his smaller inventions, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire. A number of his most practical inventions are displayed as working models at the Museum of Vinci, he made substantial discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, geology and hydrodynamics, but he did not publish his findings and they had no direct influence on science. Leonardo was born on 15 April 1452 "at the third hour of the night" in the Tuscan hill town of Vinci, in the lower valley of the Arno river in the territory of the Medici-ruled Republic of Florence.
He was the out-of-wedlock son of the wealthy Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, a Florentine legal notary, Caterina, a peasant. Leonardo had no surname in the modern sense—"da Vinci" meaning "of Vinci"; the inclusion of the title "ser" indicated. Little is known about Leonardo's early life, he spent his first five years in the hamlet of Anchiano in the home of his mother, from 1457 lived in the household of his father and uncle in the small town of Vinci. His father had married a 16-year-old girl named Albiera Amadori, who loved Leonardo but died young in 1465 without children; when Leonardo was 16, his father married again to 20-year-old Francesca Lanfredini, who died without children. Piero's legitimate heirs were born from his third wife Margherita di Guglielmo and his fourth and final wife, Lucrezia Cortigiani. In all, Leonardo had 12 half-siblings, who were much younger than he was and with whom he had few contacts, but they caused him difficulty after his father's death in the dispute over the inheritance.
Leonardo received an informal education in Latin and mathematics. In life, Leonardo recorded only two childhood incidents. One, which he regarded as an omen, was when a kite dropped from the sky and hovered over his cradle, its tail feathers brushing his face; the second occurred while he was exploring in the mountains: he discovered a cave and was both terrified that some great monster might lurk there and driven by curiosity to find out what was inside. Leonardo's early life has been the subject of historical conjecture. Vasari, the 16th-century biographer of Renaissance painters, tells a story of Leonardo as a young man: A local peasant made himself a round shield and requested that Ser Piero have it painted for him. Leonardo responded with a
Francesco di Giovanni Botticini referred to as Francesco Botticini, was an Italian Early Renaissance painter. He was born in Florence and remained active as a painter until his death in 1498, he studied in the workshops of Cosimo Rosselli and Andrea del Verrocchio. He established his own Florentine workshop after a brief period as Neri di Bicci's assistant. Although there are few works attributed to Botticini directly, in recent years historians have unearthed of a considerable number of works that were authored by Botticini. Since the assembly of the complete record of his works, he is viewed as a remarkable minor master of Renaissance Art. Botticini's best known works are the Tabernacle of the Sacrament, Assumption of the Virgin and Madonna Child in Glory with Saint Mary Magdalen and Saint Bernard. Francesco Botticini was born in 1446 in Florence, his father, Giovanni di Domenico di Piero, was a painter. Giovanni's connections in the art world at that time led to the opportunity for Francesco to become a paid assistant to Neri di Bicci.
He began as an assistant in the prosperous workshop on 22 July 1459 under a contract of one year of training. At this time Francesco was 13 years of age; the group of talented artists in the workshop led to important exposure for the young Botticini. Despite the one-year contract, Francesco left Bicci's workshop in July 1460 after only nine months of training. Scholars account for his early independence by pointing to the influence of his father's painting career and connections to other artists; when he left Bicci's workshop, it is believed that he spent considerable time in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio, alongside many of his famous contemporaries, including Leonardo da Vinci, Lorenzo di Credi, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pietro Perugino. However, there is no documentary evidence. Direct evidence of their relationship during this time is found in Francesco's collaboration with Verrocchio on works, the influence of Verrocchio's style on Francesco's paintings. Due to the competition of other talented artists present in the workshop, in 1469 Botticini opened up his own workshop, as reported in an arbitration document of the year.
However, his working relationship with Verrocchio continued until at least 1475. Francesco remained close with his father Giovanni di Domenico, who oversaw his working contracts until 1475. In 1475, Francesco filed for emancipation from paternal authority, granted in 1477 according to legal records. On 16 January 1498, Francesco Botticini died in Florence, Italy at the age of 51. At the time he was in the process of working on the monumental Tabernacle of the Sacrament for the collegiate church of Empoli, his son, Raffaello Botticini, was commissioned to finish the altarpiece after his death. The Tabernacle of the Sacrament was commissioned as an altarpiece for the high altar of the church in Empoli, Italy; this remains as one of Botticini's most notable works. Saint Andrew is pictured on the left of the ciborium. Saint Andrew was the patron saint of the church at the time. On the right of the ciborium, the home of the Eucharist, is a painting of Saint John the Baptist. Below the two main pictures are three smaller paintings in the predella.
On the left the Martyrdom of St. Andrew is depicted, directly below the painting of the Saint. In the center the Last Supper is found, with the martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist in the compartment to the right, below the larger painting of Saint John the Baptist; the paintings are enclosed in a wooden frame, carved and gilded. The altarpiece was set to be completed by 15 August 1486, however it was not installed in the church until 1491; the work was not complete until 1504 when the church commissioned Francesco Botticini's son, Raffaello, to complete the work in accordance with the original contract. The Assumption of the Virgin is Francesco Botticini's most famous work, it was first attributed to Sandro Botticelli in Vasari's The Lives of the Artists but has since been confirmed to be Botticini's work by art historians. Botticini began working on the painting in early 1475, completed it two years in 1477; the piece was commissioned by his wife Niccolosa de'Serragli. It hung in the church of S. Pier Maggiore in Florence, where Palmieri was buried, although records indicate this was not the original destination for the work.
The painting can now be found in the National London. The painting has the same dimensions of the Last Judgment by Hans Memling; the subject of the painting was influenced by the patrons, who are depicted kneeling on either side of the Assumption. Niccolosa de'Serragli is pictured dressed despite never being a nun during her lifetime; this may be explained through her active role in the decision making of the painting after the death of her husband. The background of the painting connects directly to the patrons as it includes views of Florence; the inclusion suggests. One of Palmieri's properties on the Fiesole is included; the white farm in the landscape is meant to resemble the farm included in Serrageli's dowry. The painting's subject resembles the last stanza of Palmeri's Città di Vita poem which discusses the reception of the Virgin Mary as the Queen of Heaven; the painting illustrates a clear separation between earth. Scholars believe that Botticini was forced to exaggerate the division in order to comply with the poet's wishes.
In heaven, nine tiers of angels and saints intermingle. Martin Davies believes that the intermingling represented the changing of angels back to saints when they refused to take sides over
Tempera known as egg tempera, is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder medium glutinous material such as egg yolk. Tempera refers to the paintings done in this medium. Tempera paintings are long lasting, examples from the first century CE still exist. Egg tempera was a primary method of painting until after 1500 when it was superseded by the invention of oil painting. A paint consisting of pigment and binder used in the United States as poster paint is often referred to as "tempera paint," although the binders in this paint are different from traditional tempera paint. Tempera painting has been found on early Egyptian sarcophagi decorations. Many of the Fayum mummy portraits use tempera, sometimes in combination with encaustic. A related technique has been used in ancient and early medieval paintings found in several caves and rock-cut temples of India. High-quality art with the help of tempera was created in Bagh Caves between the late 4th and 10th centuries CE and in the 7th century CE in Ravan Chhaya rock shelter, Orissa.
The art technique was known from the classical world, where it appears to have taken over from encaustic painting and was the main medium used for panel painting and illuminated manuscripts in the Byzantine world and Medieval and Early renaissance Europe. Tempera painting was the primary panel painting medium for nearly every painter in the European Medieval and Early renaissance period up to 1500. For example, every surviving panel painting by Michelangelo is egg tempera. Oil paint, which may have originated in Afghanistan between the 5th and 9th centuries and migrated westward in the Middle Ages superseded tempera. Oil replaced tempera as the principal medium used for creating artwork during the 15th century in Early Netherlandish painting in northern Europe. Around 1500, oil paint replaced tempera in Italy. In the 19th and 20th centuries, there were intermittent revivals of tempera technique in Western art, among the Pre-Raphaelites, Social Realists, others. Tempera painting continues to be used in Greece and Russia where it is the traditional medium for Orthodox icons.
The term tempera is derived from the Late Latin distemperare. Tempera is traditionally created by hand-grinding dry powdered pigments into a binding agent or medium, such as egg yolk, milk and a variety of plant gums; the most common form of classical tempera painting is "egg tempera". For this form most only the contents of the egg yolk is used; the white of the egg and the membrane of the yolk are discarded. Egg yolk is used by itself with pigment; some agent is always added, in variable proportions. One recipe calls for vinegar, but only in small amounts. A few drops of vinegar will preserve the solution for a week. (1:3, 3 parts water, 1 part yolk. Some schools of egg tempera use various mixtures of egg water. Powdered pigment, or pigment, ground in distilled water, is placed onto a palette or bowl and mixed with a equal volume of the binder; some pigments require more binder, some require less. When used to paint icons on church walls, liquid myrrh is sometimes added to the mixture to give the paint a pleasing odor as worshipers may find the egg tempera somewhat pungent for quite some time after completion.
The paint mixture has to be adjusted to maintain a balance between a "greasy" and "watery" consistency by adjusting the amount of water and yolk. As tempera dries, the artist will add more water to preserve the consistency and to balance the thickening of the yolk on contact with air. Once prepared, the paint cannot be stored. Egg tempera is not waterproof. Different preparations use the egg white or the whole egg for a different effect. Other additives such as oil and wax emulsions can modify the medium. Egg tempera requires stiff boards. Adding oil in no more than a 1:1 ratio with the egg yolk by volume produces a water-soluble medium with many of the color effects of oil paint, although it cannot be painted thickly; some of the pigments used by medieval painters, such as cinnabar, orpiment, or lead white are toxic. Most artists today use modern synthetic pigments, which are less toxic but have similar color properties to the older pigments. So, many modern pigments are still dangerous unless certain precautions are taken.
Tempera paint dries rapidly. It is applied in thin, semi-opaque or transparent layers. Tempera painting allows for great precision when used with traditional techniques that require the application of numerous small brush strokes applied in a cross-hatching technique; when dry, it produces a smooth matte finish. Because it cannot be applied in thick layers as oil paints can, tempera paintings have the deep color saturation that oil paintings can achieve because it can hold less pigment. In this respect, the colors of an unvarnished tempera painting resemble a pastel, although the color deepens if a varnish is applied. On the other hand, tempera colors do not change over time, whereas oil paints darken and become transparent with age. Tempera adheres best to an absorbent ground that has a lower oil co
Raphael is an archangel responsible for healing in the traditions of most Abrahamic religions. Not all branches of these religions consider the identification of Raphael to be canonical. In Christianity, Raphael is associated with an unnamed angel mentioned in the Gospel of John, who stirs the water at the healing pool of Bethesda. Raphael is an angel in Mormonism, as he is mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants. Raphael is mentioned in the Book of Tobit, accepted as canonical by Catholics and some Anglicans. Raphael is a venerated angel within the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Lutheran traditions, he is given the title "Saint Raphael". In Islam, Raphael is the fourth major angel. Though unnamed in the Quran, hadith identifies Israfil with the angel of Quran 6:73. Within Islamic eschatology, Israfil is traditionally attributed to a trumpet, poised at his lips, when God so commands he shall be ready to announce the Day of Resurrection; the angels mentioned in the Torah, the older books of the Hebrew Bible, are without names.
Shimon ben Lakish of Tiberias, asserted that all the specific names for the angels were brought back by the Jews from Babylon, modern commentators would tend to agree. According to the Babylonian Talmud, Raphael is identified as one of the three angels that appeared to Abraham in the oak grove of Mamre, in the region of Hebron.. Michael, as the greatest, walked with Gabriel to his right and Raphael to his left. All three angels were commanded to carry out a specific mission. Gabriel's mission was to destroy Sodom. Rashi writes, "Although Raphael's mission included two tasks, they were considered a single mission since they were both acts that saved people." Raphael is named in several Jewish apocryphal books. The Life of Adam and Eve lists the archangels as well: Michael, Uriel and Joel. Medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides made a Jewish angelic hierarchy, which includes the archangel Raphael. Medieval French rabbi and Tanakh commentator Rashi views Raphael as being one of the three angels that appeared to Abraham in the oak grove of Mamre in the Book of Genesis.
Raphael is mentioned in the Book of Enoch alongside archangels Michael and Uriel. Raphael bound Azazel under a desert called Dudael according to Enoch 10:4–6: And again the Lord said to Raphael: "Bind Azazel hand and foot, cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert, in Dudael, cast him therein, and place upon him rough and jagged rocks, cover him with darkness, let him abide there for and cover his face that he may not see light. And on the day of the great judgment he shall be cast into the fire." "Raphael, one of the holy angels, over the spirits of men." When Enoch asked who the four figures were that he had seen: "And he said to me:'This first is Michael, the merciful and long-suffering: and the second, set over all the diseases and all the wounds of the children of men, is Raphael: and the third, set over all the powers, is Gabriel: and the fourth, set over the repentance unto hope of those who inherit eternal life, is named Phanuel.' And these are the four angels of the Lord of Spirits and the four voices I heard in those days."
Of archangels in the angelology of post-Exilic Judaism, only Michael, mentioned as archangel, Gabriel are mentioned by name in canonical books. The identification of Raphael is not accepted as canonical by most denominations of Protestantism, as the name only appears in the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit; the name "Raphael" is recognized in church tradition as a result of Protestantism's origins in Catholicism. Raphael are not venerated in Protestantism; the Book of Tobit is considered deuterocanonical by Catholics and some Anglicans. In it, Raphael first appears disguised as the human travelling companion of Tobit's son, calling himself "Azarias the son of the great Ananias". During the course of the journey, the archangel's protective influence is shown in many ways including the binding of a demon in the desert of upper Egypt. After returning and healing the blind Tobit, Azarias makes himself known as "the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord" Tobit 12:15, he is venerated as Saint Raphael the Archangel.
Regarding the healing powers attributed to Raphael, there is his declaration to Tobit that he was sent by the Lord to heal him of his blindness and to deliver Sarah, his future daughter-in-law, from the demon Asmodeus, who kills every man she marries on their wedding night before the marriage can be consummated. In the New Testament, only the archangels Michael are mentioned by name. Manuscripts of John 5:1–4 refer to the pool of Bethesda, where the multitude of the infirm lay awaiting the moving of the water, for "an angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond, and he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water was made whole of whatsoever infirmity he lay under". Because of the healing role assigned to Raphael, this particular angel is associated with the archangel. Due to his actions in the Book of Tobit and the Go
National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art, its attached Sculpture Garden, is a national art museum in Washington, D. C. located on the National Mall, between 3rd and 9th Streets, at Constitution Avenue NW. Open to the public and free of charge, the museum was established in 1937 for the American people by a joint resolution of the United States Congress. Andrew W. Mellon donated funds for construction; the core collection includes major works of art donated by Paul Mellon, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, Lessing J. Rosenwald, Samuel Henry Kress, Rush Harrison Kress, Peter Arrell Browne Widener, Joseph E. Widener, Chester Dale; the Gallery's collection of paintings, prints, sculpture and decorative arts traces the development of Western Art from the Middle Ages to the present, including the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas and the largest mobile created by Alexander Calder. The Gallery's campus includes the original neoclassical West Building designed by John Russell Pope, linked underground to the modern East Building, designed by I. M. Pei, the 6.1-acre Sculpture Garden.
The Gallery presents temporary special exhibitions spanning the world and the history of art. It is one of the largest museums in North America. Pittsburgh banker Andrew W. Mellon began gathering a private collection of old master paintings and sculptures during World War I. During the late 1920s, Mellon decided to direct his collecting efforts towards the establishment of a new national gallery for the United States. In 1930 for tax reasons, Mellon formed the A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, to be the legal owner of works intended for the gallery. In 1930–1931, the Trust made its first major acquisition, 21 paintings from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg as part of the Soviet sale of Hermitage paintings, including such masterpieces as Raphael's Alba Madonna, Titian's Venus with a Mirror, Jan van Eyck's Annunciation. In 1929 Mellon had initiated contact with the appointed Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Charles Greeley Abbot. Mellon was appointed in 1931 as a Commissioner of the Institution's National Gallery of Art.
When the director of the Gallery retired, Mellon asked Abbot not to appoint a successor, as he proposed to endow a new building with funds for expansion of the collections. However, Mellon's trial for tax evasion, centering on the Trust and the Hermitage paintings, caused the plan to be modified. In 1935, Mellon announced in The Washington Star, his intention to establish a new gallery for old masters, separate from the Smithsonian; when asked by Abbot, he explained that the project was in the hands of the Trust and that its decisions were dependent on "the attitude of the Government towards the gift". In January 1937, Mellon formally offered to create the new Gallery. On his birthday, 24 March 1937, an Act of Congress accepted the collection and building funds, approved the construction of a museum on the National Mall; the new gallery was to be self-governing, not controlled by the Smithsonian, but took the old name "National Gallery of Art" while the Smithsonian's gallery would be renamed the "National Collection of Fine Arts".
Designed by architect John Russell Pope, the new structure was completed and accepted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on behalf of the American people on March 17, 1941. Neither Mellon nor Pope lived to see the museum completed. At the time of its inception it was the largest marble structure in the world; the museum stands on the former site of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station, where in 1881 a disgruntled office seeker, Charles Guiteau, shot President James Garfield. As anticipated by Mellon, the creation of the National Gallery encouraged the donation of other substantial art collections by a number of private donors. Founding benefactors included such individuals as Paul Mellon, Samuel H. Kress, Rush H. Kress, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, Chester Dale, Joseph Widener, Lessing J. Rosenwald and Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch; the Gallery's East Building was constructed in the 1970s on much of the remaining land left over from the original congressional action. Andrew Mellon's children, Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon Bruce, funded the building.
Designed by architect I. M. Pei, the contemporary structure was completed in 1978 and was opened on June 1 of that year by President Jimmy Carter; the new building was built to house the Museum's collection of modern paintings, drawings 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 final addition to the complex is the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. Completed and opened to the public on May 23, 1999, the location provides an outdoor setting for exhibiting a number of pieces from the Museum's contemporary sculpture collection; the National Gallery of Art is supported through a private-public partnership. The United States federal government provides funds, through annual appropriations, to support the museum's operations and maintenance. All artwork, as well as special programs, are provided through private funds; the museum is not part of the Smithsonian Institution. Noted directors of the National Gallery have included David E. Finley, Jr. John Walker, J. Carter Brown.
Earl A. "Rusty" Powell III was named director in 1993. In March 2019 he was be succeeded by Kaywin Feldman, past director and president of the Minneapolis In