Art: Everyman's Palace

The U.S. was the last of the great Western nations to possess a national gallery of art. Yet now, less than 14 years after its dedication, the National Gallery in Washington ranks with the world's finest. The gallery's principal offering is a grand tour of Western art—from stiff but splendid beginnings in Siena and Florence right through to the skyrocket flash and fizzle of modern times. Casual visitors may make the tour in a day, students in a decade; the gallery is solidly studded with masterpieces.

Fat Cushions & Big Lights. Washington cab drivers...

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