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Sketchbook highlights of a trip to DC

I went to the Hirschorn Museum for the first time on Saturday. I started at the Corcoran Museum, which is slightly south-west of the White House, and walked through the mist and fog across the grassy area south of the ellipse. One of the remarkable things about the USA is right there in that scene. A lot of people think of America as the huge, evil imperialist beast, its military-industrial complex always churning away, helicopters and F-15s swarming the skies around the Pentagon, spies and police frisking you down if you so much as look at them the wrong way. Yet you can walk past the White House on a drizzly Saturday morning, and all you will see are a few Secret Service SUVs parked here and there, a few guys trying to play football on the swampy grass, and the occasional tourist forlornly taking a photo of the famous scene, evidently despondent that the whole picture is rather more ordinary than grandiose. I tramped slowly past the Washington Monument (the big stone needle), up the National Mall, past the huge Smithsonian buildings, and thought to myself that even Americans, obsessed as they currently are with which political party is about to destroy the Republic, forget that between the twin poles of US political power -- the White House and the Capitol -- lie a mile or so of the greatest cultural repositories on the planet.

Back to the Hirschorn, which housed many paintings and sculptures that I've known and loved all my life, yet which I was seeing for the first time. Here are some sketches I did in a room full of early, significant Willem de Koonings. First, 'Queen of Hearts', from 1943-46:

Then one of his 'Women' series:

In the evening, I went back to the conference hotel to meet Patty and others for the cocktail hour:

Then on Sunday morning, we left the hotel early to catch the plane back to Chicago:

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"Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence." -- Henri Matisse.

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