The Renwick Gallery
The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SASM) is a branch of the museum devoted to American art and decorative arts. Now known by the name of the architect who designed it, the Renwick Gallery is located a block from the White House. The beautiful red-brick, French Second-Empire-style building was designed by James Renwick, Jr., who also designed the Smithsonian’s Castle on the Mall and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
The structure has a colorful history. Built just before the Civil War to hold the impressive art collection of William Wilson Corcoran, a banker and art patron, the building was seized by the U.S. Army and used as a storage warehouse during the hostilities. The Corcoran Gallery of Art finally opened its doors in 1873. When that collection outgrew this building and moved to its present nearby location in 1897, the edifice was used by the U.S. Government court system.
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy helped save it from the wrecking ball in the early 1960s, and the building became part of the Smithsonian during the Johnson administration. After a major renovation, the Renwick Gallery opened to the public in 1972.
The Renwick’s permanent collection, as well as the temporary exhibitions that it mounts, represent all craft media from early America to the present day. In addition to paintings and drawings, visitors will see objects in glass, ceramics, stone, wood, paper, metal, fiber, and fabrics throughout the gallery. Jewelry and furniture also form significant parts of the collection.
The Renwick Gallery is at 1661 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. (at 17th Street). Visitor information such as hours, calendar, exhibitions and tours is availible on the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery website.
by Katie Calvert