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Big Art Tour National Gallery of Art

Quick Details

Hour Glass 2 hours

Calendar Saturdays at 1 p.m.

Map Marker Meets Inside Lower Level Entrance Constitution Avenue NW

Adult & Senior

Journey from the Renaissance to Impressionism

The Journey From the Renaissance to Impressionism Join our guided, small-group tour at the National Gallery of Art to experience some of the most influential works of Western Art. 

This 2-hour walking tour travels back in time to the beginning of the 13th century, at the start of the Italian Renaissance. The Italian Renaissance art movement was an era that valued science, nature, learning, and innovation in addition to religion and sacred art. Indeed, Italian Renaissance art was grounded in the intersections of art, religion, and society as it spread throughout Italy and greater Europe. 

The adventure does not stop at the rise of Italian Renaissance art, though. It hurtles through history, tracing the most prominent lines of art and culture throughout time. Discover the magic of Medieval times, the Baroque era, Romanticism, the Art Nouveau, and French Impressionism. Track the evolution of sacred art and religious themes over the centuries. Your tour guide, Stephen, will uncover the names, histories, and artworks of artists that contributed to each of these movements, whose work does not get the attention it deserves. We will end our journey among the pastels and paint strokes of French Impressionism in the National Gallery of Art. 

Throughout your time together, Stephen will delve into the lives and innovations of the artists who laid the foundation for the future of creative thinking and thousands of artistic endeavors: 

Leonardo da Vinci, known around the world as the original renaissance man, is one of the most famous figures in the Italian Renaissance art period. Ironically, he’s also the artist with the fewest works left behind. While he is thought to have been very prolific, his artworks have likely been lost and misattributed over time. Born in Florence, Italy, Leonardo da Vinci pioneered inventions and excellence in almost all facets of Italian Renaissance art, culture, and society, including anatomy, architecture, engineering, painting, sculpture, and music, just to name a few. Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings have sparked conversations that have stretched hundreds of years. The psychology of his portraiture, particularly his most famous portrait, the Mona Lisa, is still debated today. Learn more about this dialogue as well as Leonardo da Vinci’s contributions to art, science, and mathematics in the Italian Renaissance art movement.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a Dutch artist and draftsman that approached art with unprecedented sincerity and honesty. Rembrandt lived from 1606-1669, and in his lifetime, he had a formative role in the Baroque art period. His portraiture is famous for its “basement light,” where Rembrandt’s subjects were cast in high contrast lights that illuminated only parts of their faces and bodies. Rembrandt also portrayed the people in his paintings with informality and vitality that is rarely, if ever, seen in earlier portraiture. Rembrandt’s artwork was also engaged in traditions of sacred art and biblical stories. See his many complex and highly-detailed biblical paintings alongside his portraiture. 

J.M.W. Turner was a British painter who played a pivotal role in Romanticism, an artistic movement that marked the 18th and 19th centuries. J.M.W. Turner’s work aligns with a broader fascination with nature that struck the artists, scholars, and thinkers of the Romantic era. J.M.W. Turner was particularly interested in waterscapes and shipwrecks and portrayed many dramatic and emotive scenes of vessels at sea. Turner experimented with the transparency and quality of his paint so that he could most accurately convey the relationship between nature and human emotion, a popular theme for him and his fellow Romantic artists and writers. Turner’s prolific body of work was undoubtedly a precursor to the ephemeral and colorful landscapes of Claude Monet and his contemporaries of French Impressionism.

The life and work of Vincent Van Gogh will round out your adventure through the paintings that line the halls of the National Gallery of Art. Notorious for cutting off his own ear, Vincent Van Gogh was a deeply troubled man whose work was marked by financial troubles and personal strife. Van Gogh played with perspective and color in revolutionary and unpredictable ways; the shifts in his stylistic choices transitioned the Western art world from Impressionism to Expressionism. With visual themes and imagery having moved away from sacred art, you will see that Van Gogh’s compositions range from portraiture to landscapes to commonplace objects and interior spaces. Stephen will dispel the mystery in the midnight blue swirls of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, unpack the elements in his painting Bedroom in Arles, and breakdown the complexities of Van Gogh’s famous self-portrait.

Meet Your Tour Guide | Stephen Mead

Stephen has led a life and career rooted in understanding, sharing, and teaching others about the arts. He spent many years in London as a lead tour guide at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He was also a speaker for the National Arts Collection Fund and an educator at a myriad of educational institutions throughout Britain. Since moving to the Washington D.C. area six years ago, Stephen has spent countless hours leading locals and visitors alike through our many monuments and the capital’s museums. Above all else, Stephen is a master storyteller who weaves together the threads of history and art to engage and delight his audiences. 

The Tour Must Go On In the face of a pandemic, we still believe in the healing and enriching power of art. We have created a virtual version of the Renaissance to Impressionism tour to observe social distancing orders and provide our clients with continued adventure. Spend an hour diving into the Italian Renaissance, studying sacred art and meandering through the meadows of French Impressionism via Zoom. Stephen will artfully guide you through this condensed version of our in-person tour. Museum Art and Street Tours is committed to helping everyone enjoy art and culture, even from their own homes.

About the Museum

The National Gallery of Art DC first opened its doors in 1927, giving the public a place to

commemorate Western European artwork from centuries ago through to modern times. The collection’s roots date back to some of the most prominent names in Western art, including Raphael, Rembrandt, El Greco, and Johannes Vermeer. It is artists like these who maintain impeccably high art standards, inspiring many of the art we see emerging today. The gallery takes visitors on an enthralling journey through history’s most inspiring passageways, keeping some of the most overlooked or commonly forgotten pieces of art alive. Explore an electrifying “collection of collections,” defined by the personal tastes of donors.

The National Gallery of Art is open for entertainment and education ALL year-round (apart from Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). EVERYONE is welcome on our side of history, Monday to Friday 10 am-5 pm and Sunday 11 am-6 pm. You can find The National Gallery of Art DC between 3rd and 9th streets, on the National Mall. 

Please be aware that there are no parking lots at the National Gallery of Art, so plan transportation accordingly.