Friday night I went to the White House for a tour of the East Wing and main building. Sadly there are no photographs allowed within the building. It goes without saying it is to prevent folks from #1 accidentally photographing something that a bad guy could use, as well as simply staving off damage to the delicate fabrics and artwork throughout the main floor.
After screening, we walked through a public portion of the East Wing. It was lined with paintings of past presidents as well as some wonderful photographs of the different first families who occupied the building. There was one sweet grouping that showed Tricia Nixon’s wedding, the Clinton’s with Chelsea, JFK with Caroline and John in the Oval Office, the Obama’s with their daughters and their dog, as well as other family gatherings held in the White House.
I loved that the photos ran the gamut from early 20th century to the 2009 Easter Egg Roll on the lawn. They seemed to be in the frames without regard to presidency or party lines and were focused on specific themes instead.
Once inside the White House, we saw several rooms on the ground floor as well as a nice display of several president’s china. I loved President Truman’s china pattern and President Lincoln’s drinking glasses remained me of the cut crystal folks bought in Germany at the flea markets; it seemed old fashioned and looked like it was cut in Czechoslovakia.
I was tickled to see the China Room. I kept thinking about the movie American President, where Annette Benning and Michael Douglas talk about the china in the “Dish Room”. The cabinets are painted with a very deep blood red flat paint and the china really seemed to pop.
We then went upstairs where we walked to the East Room. This room is about 2800 sq feet and was very beautiful. The ceilings were 20 feet tall and there was some lovely plaster moldings all over it. The central corridor enters this room and this is were the presidential press conferences are held. From there you walked through four state rooms each decorated in a specific color. Gilburt Stuart’s painting of George Washington hands there as well as a painting of one of my favorite presidents, Theodore Roosevelt.
Most of the rooms were papered in cloth instead of wallpaper. The Green room look like silk moire taffeta, the red room had gorgeous scarlet silk. Well you get the idea.
Each room had wonderful pictures of presidents as well as an assortment of other paintings. The green room had a small John Signer Sargent painting called The Mosquito Net. This painting is small (22″ x 28″) and is wonderfully intimate. This photo is courtesy of the wonderful website, John Singer Sargent Gallery. According to free library, Sargent painted this in 1913 and the model is Marion Alice (Polly) Barnard, who was the daughter of a friend of Sargent.
This painting glows and draws your eye as soon as you walk into the Green Room. The dress is rendered so beautifully that you suspect it’s a Sargent at first glance. Seeing it was the highlight of the tour for me. The Mosquito Net was on a wall with several other large works (it was sandwiched between a John Marin painting and a larger landscape above it) on one side of a doorway and a wonderful Jacob Lawrence painting, The Builders on the other side of the wall. According to the Washington Post article, John Marin’s The Circus No. 1,Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City also hung on the wall.
In the Green Room, the painting joins “The Circus No. 1” by John Marin; a portrait of Louisa Catherine Adams by Gilbert Stuart; “The Mosquito Net” by John Singer Sargent; and “Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City” by Henry Ossawa Tanner.
Again the entire first floor was wonderful, but seeing this gem of a Sargent painting was the highlight of the visit for me.
If you live in the DC area or are planning a trip to DC, please check out this link that tells you how to request a self guided tour through the White House. If you love art or history or politics, or even if you’ve just always wanted to see the building please do so! You need to apply at least 30 days in advance and can ask up to 6 months in advance. If you’re visitng on a trip make sure you have several dates in mind. Its the chance of a lifetime so, please come and visit this wonderful home!