WHEN Marion and Gustave Ring moved into the home they had designed and decorated for themselves on Massachusetts Avenue in 1951, something was missing.

Great art.

So they built up a small survey of modern art that was scaled to home-size. As Ring was a successful builder in town, they could afford Bonnard, Matisse, Monet, Degas and Picasso.

A visitor to "Selections from the Collection of Marion and Gustave Ring" at the Hirshhorn cannot help but contemplate what it would be like to have a Mir,o in the living room, a Modigliani in the library, a L,eger in the laundry.

Imagine being able to admire, at proprietary leisure, Monet's "Waterloo Bridge" which disappears into fog, or Vuillard's fine pointillist portrait of his grandmother, she not quite a silhouette, her face and hat all textured as she reads in a romantic glow that illuminates her hands, the letter she holds and the room about her.

Stuart Davis' "G & W" hung in Marion Ring's bedroom. She liked it so well it traveled with her when the Rings went to Florida for the winter. This abstract interplay of shapes and colors was added to their collection after she had become an enthusiastic Hirshhorn docent.

With her exposure to the more recent modern works there, the Rings developed their collection. They added a Calder mobile similar to one that dangles over a Hirshhorn escalator (what window shopping it must've been working there) -- and German expressionist works, a mountainscape by Ernst Kirchner, a late summer farmstead in illogically brilliant colors by Max Pechstein -- as well as a small Rothko, green rectangles in miniature.

After their first major acquisition in 1952, a bronze horse by Degas, they also acquired a bronze Degas ballerina. There are similarities between the two hoofers, kicking up their heels, flowing with movement. Such classical forms contrast strongly with later acquisitions, such as Jos,e de Rivera's "Construction No. 189," a compelling scribble of brass that rotates continuously on a wooden base, sprawling sideways then gathering itself together again.

On display here are 50 selections, from the start of their collecting until Marion and Gustave Ring died in 1983, within a month of each other.

SELECTIONS FROM THE COLLECTION OF MARION AND GUSTAVE RING -- At the Hirshhorn Gallery through January 12, 1985.