Construction of the West Building
Mellon selected American architect John Russell Pope (1874–1937) to design the building for the new museum. Now called the West Building, it was designed in a neoclassical style that mirrors elements of Pope’s designs for the nearby National Archives building and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. The exterior was constructed with Tennessee pink marble, and Pope specified that skylights should cover virtually the entire three-acre roof to illuminate and unite the galleries.
Mellon and Pope died within 24 hours of each other in August 1937, not long after excavation for the West Building’s foundations had begun, but the museum was built according to their concepts. The National Gallery was dedicated on March 17, 1941, with Paul Mellon presenting the museum on behalf of his father to President Roosevelt, who accepted the gift for the nation.