We saw two beautiful exhibits at the National Gallery in Washington: “Degas/Cassatt” and “Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In.”

Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt at the Louvre, c. 1879, pastel, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Henry P. McIlhenny Collection in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, 1986. The Philadelphia Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY

Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt at the Louvre, c. 1879, pastel, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Henry P. McIlhenny Collection in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, 1986. The Philadelphia Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY

“Degas/Cassatt” tells the well-known story of the collaboration and mutual admiration between the artists, demonstrated in a number of their most notable paintings and many prints. Interesting fact: Degas’s personal art collection consisted almost entirely of Cassatt’s work, about one hundred objects. She collected little of his work, and later in life disposed of it all.

Andrew Wyeth, Wind from the Sea, 1947, tempera on hardboard, National Gallery of Art, Gift of Charles H. Morgan, 2009. © Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth, Wind from the Sea, 1947, tempera on hardboard, National Gallery of Art, Gift of Charles H. Morgan, 2009. © Andrew Wyeth

The Andrew Wyeth show was a revelation: sixty paintings, watercolors and drawings, all featuring windows. Pride of place went to Wind from the Sea, a lacy curtain billowing inward from an open window. Every image was stunning, beauty in very mundane objects and scenes. Very different from Wyeth’s famous Christina’s World.

The Barnes collection in its new headquarters in Philadelphia was a jolt; we’d not seen it since it moved to its downtown location. A massive marble building surrounds rooms recreated like the old collection was displayed (as Barnes himself designed). The art, for the most part, is grand and eccentric, with a number of famous paintings (and many minor works), crammed together with bits of hardware—locks and keys—interspersed. Just like the old place. But why this huge building surrounding a not very large set of display rooms? Imagine a two-bedroom bungalow put inside a MacMansion. We came away baffled by the grandiosity of it all.