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Dumbarton Oaks Gardens

I am spoiled in Washington D.C. with wonderful, free museums that I can visit on a regular basis. (Current government shut down not withstanding!)  So for Museum Day last Saturday, I visited the smaller Dumbarton Oaks Gardens.  Since we had some pleasant late summer weather, I thought I would show you around the grounds and take a look a the current contemporary art installation there.

garden metallionbees in yellow flowers, Dumbarton Oaks gardens

clouds in pool, Dumbarton Oaks gardens

The Dumbarton Oaks house was constructed in 1801 but was made famous by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss who purchased the home in 1920.  Situated in Northern Georgetown, they decorated with their own extensive art collection and international items purchased while in the foreign service.  The property and its collection was transferred to Harvard University in 1940, although the Bliss’s continued to advise and develop the institution until the 1960s.  Today the house and collection are formally known as the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Museum and are a quiet, enjoyable museum and park for locals and well-informed visitors.

fountain, Dumbarton Oaks gardens

water lilies, Dumbarton Oaks gardens

Mildred Bliss loved gardens having viewed and studied many European gardens in her travels.  Shortly after purchasing the estate, she began working with renowned landscape architect Beatrix Farrand to shape the hilly property into a series of unique terrace gardens.  I really enjoyed the visual drama of entering very individualized gardens, such as the classic Rose Garden, grassy Ellipse Garden, the Cutting Garden bursting with color and the Asian-themed Lover’s Lane Pool Garden.

The Pebble Garden, Dumbarton Oaks gardens

The Pebble Garden was installed in the Dumbarton Oaks gardens in the 1960’s.

The Pebble Garden, Dumbarton Oaks gardens

The Pebble Garden mosaic up close

bench, Dumbarton Oaks gardens

flowers, Dumbarton Oaks gardens

loggia, Dumbarton Oaks gardens

red flowers, Dumbarton Oaks gardens

Dumbarton Oaks occasionally hosts contemporary art installations on its grounds.  Currently on display in the Arbor Terrace Garden is Cloud Terrace by Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot of Cao | Perrot Studio, Los Angeles and Paris.  The piece is an undulating mass of wire fence shaped into a tumbling cloud.  It is hung with 10,000 Swarovski crystals which shimmer in the reflecting pool below.  The artwork is a joyful surprise when you enter the secluded garden landing.  It was a beautiful piece to walk around (and under).  The wire and crystal compliment the organic surroundings very nicely.  My pictures make it seem much darker; in person, the light passes easily through the mesh giving the impression of a real hovering cloud.

Cloud Terrace in the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens

Cloud Terrace in the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens

Cloud Terrace art installation

Cloud Terrace by Cao | Perrot Studio, installed at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC

Close up of Cloud Terrace

Close up of Cloud Terrace

Cloud Terrace in the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens

One stray cloud to the side

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m so glad to see this. I wanted to visit Dumbarton Oaks when I was in DC last April, but ran out of time. I am in love with the Cloud Terrace. It reminds me of that scene in Pollyana where she strings the crystals (it’s the only scene I remember). I want a cloud terrace of my very own. 😀


    October 9, 2013
    • Thanks! DC has so many awesome museums, everyone runs out of time when they visit so no worries. 🙂 I need to rewatch Pollyana, that scene sounds very cool. The art installation was so seamless and enchanting; I want a Cloud Terrace of my own too!


      October 10, 2013

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