On March 24 of 1937 the United States Congress established the National Gallery of Art.

The National Gallery of Art was conceived and given to the people of the United States by Andrew W. Mellon (1855-1937). Mellon was a financier and art collector from Pittsburgh who came to Washington in 1921 to serve as secretary of the treasury. During his years of public service he came to believe that the United States should have a national art museum equal to those of other great nations.

In 1936 Mellon wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt offering to donate his superb art collection for a new museum and to use his own funds to construct a building for its use. With the president’s support, Congress accepted Mellon’s gift, which included a sizable endowment, and established the National Gallery of Art in March 1937. Construction began that year at a site on the National Mall along Constitution Avenue between Fourth and Seventh Street NW, near the foot of Capitol Hill.

Long time Darien residents such as Richard John Kuelling and John Frederick Kensett among others have performed or had their work shown at the Gallery.

Kuelling, a singer, trained as a bass-baritone on a full scholarship at Juilliard, early career included solo performances at the National Gallery of Art. He died in Darien in 2013.

Kensett, an American artist and engraver, has many of his works on display at the National Gallery.

In 1867, Kensett purchased from his friend Vincent Colyer a parcel of land on an island, which he called Contentment, just off the coast of Darien, in the Long Island Sound. He built a studio and worked there in season on the coastal views on which he had staked his reputation. It was also at that site that the artist precipitated his death five years later when he plunged into the sound trying to save Colyer’s wife, who drowned. Recovering in New York from the trauma, Kensett was found lifeless in his studio a month later.