Palate Refresher: Kreeger Museum, Washington, DC

P1000051Visit this jewel box of a museum to clear your mind and spirit while feasting on one of the world’s most stunning collections of 19th and 20th century paintings, sculpture and African and Asian art. The private collection of Carmen and David Kreeger is housed in a 1967 Phillip Johnson home, a work of art in itself, with its Byzantine domes, travertine limestone clad walls, and interior courtyard filled with towering tropical plants.

The Kreegers had a rule for collecting: each of them had to love the piece or they wouldn’t buy it . . . charming, no? Their desire, as expressed to Johnson, was to be surrounded by their art so as to be “refreshed” at the end of the day. And, oh yes, the place should have perfect acoustics so that when Itzhak Perlman stopped by, they could play together for friends. David Kreeger was an amateur violinist whose legacy includes a vibrant chamber music program.

The dining room, now the Monet Gallery, is filled with luminous seascapes and the atmospheric river at Giverny. In the intimately scaled salon, the watercolor, “Dying Sunflower” (1907-1908) to the left of the fireplace is a surprise. You’d never guess that it’s by Piet Mondrian – at least I didn’t. No hint of abstract geometric grids in this highly representational arabesque of a flower. Hidden behind the sunflower is a secret door leading to the Kreegers’ bedroom.

P1000050After passing through the grand salon (Picassos to the right of you, Braques to the left of you!),  you’ll come to a magnificent stairway, its railing clad in molten bronze grill work. Each of the rectangles and parallelograms is a work of art, no two alike, like links in an enormous necklace. Please touch! Descend the staircase, passing a Calder mobile, to the lower gallery. Here you’ll enjoy Yves Tanguy, Man Ray, Jean Dubuffet, Frank Stella, among others. Knockouts include Sam Gilliam’s vibrant “Cape” (1969), and Gene Davis’ candy striped canvas, untitled, so you can make up your own (1953).

On the terrace, the sculptures, including works by Henry Moore and Isamu Noguchi, are placed as they were when the Kreegers lived here. The swimming pool on the lower level has been converted to a reflecting pool and will be accessible to the public in warmer weather. Take a walk around Jean Arp’s “Twisted Torso” (1958). Yes, she does have two P1000053backsides. Both are lovely.


Enjoy a virtual visit:

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