In the wake of an announcement last year that blockbuster exhibits were a thing of the past, art museums on the East and West coasts have surprised the public when publishing 1993 schedules filled with top-notch exhibitions.

- The National Gallery of Art (NGOA) in Washington D.C. always seems to come up with crowd-pleasers. On display through April 11 is John Singleton Copley's painting "Watson and the Shark," one of the most compelling and complex of the artist's works. Copley (1738-1815) created this large canvas in 1778. It portrays the moment in the youth of wealthy merchant Brook Watson when he was attacked by a shark while swimming in Havana harbor, an incident that resulted in the loss of part of his right leg.To celebrate the acquisition of the masterpiece "The Old Violin" by American artist William M. Harnett (1848-1892), NGOA has assembled 48 of the artist's most important works. They can be viewed through June 13.

Harnett was the leader of the late 19th century American school of trompe-l'oeil painting. His realistic still lifes are filled with musical instruments as well as everyday objects such as books, currency and other paraphernalia.

Gallery director Earl A. Powell III said, "We are delighted to present this landmark exhibition illuminating the work of Harnett, whose painting influenced a generation of American still-life artists."

Waiting in the wings at NGOA are other tempting exhibits: "British Watercolors: The Great Age 1750-1860," May 2-July 25; "Great French Paintings from the Barnes Foundation: Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Early Modern," May 9-Sept. 6; "Helen Frankenthaler Prints," June 6-Sept. 6; and "John James Audubon," Oct. 3, 1993-Jan. 2, 1994.

- "The Greek Miracle," the magnificent exhibit spotlighting classical sculpture from the Fifth Century B.C., closed at NGOA last month. However, on March 11, it opened at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMOA), N.Y., where it will continue through May 23.

Most of the 22 pieces on display had never left Greek soil until this exhibit. They represent the great sculptural innovations and achievements in depiction of the human form that followed the birth of democracy in Athens 2,500 years ago.

Also at MMOA: "Daumier Drawings," the first major exhibition devoted to over 100 works of Honore Daumier (1808-1879) in chalk, charcoal, conte crayon and watercolor. In addition are selected examples of the artist's paintings, prints and bronzes. This unique exhibit can be viewed through May 2.

The MMOA isn't fooling when it says that "The H.O. Havemeyer Collection" is an incomparable collection - even though it opens on April 1. On display through June 20 will be 300 works by such artists as Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet and Paul Cezanne.

- Among the 1993 exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), N.Y., are two biggies, "Max Ernst: Dada and the Dawn of Surrealism" (through May 2) and "The David Rockefeller Collection: Gifts to the Museum of Modern Art," (June-August 1993).

The Ernst exhibit contains approximately 150 works dating from 1912-1927 and represents a comprehensive visual and intellectual exploration during 15 years of the artist's career.

The Rockefeller collection constitutes one of the finest, most generous gifts given to MOMA - or any museum. It is dominated by masterworks of Neo-Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism. Some of the painters? Bonnard, Cezanne, Derain, Matisse, Picasso and Signac.

- The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, N.Y., is now displaying (through May) "Picasso and the Age of Iron." This exhibit traces the development of the art of assemblage and the expressive force of forged iron. Focus is not only on works by Picasso, but others by Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Julio Gonzalez and David Smith.

Come May, the museum will present an in-depth survey of the work of Roy Lichtenstein, one of the most influential artists of the postwar era. It remains there through August. Afterwards, it will travel to several other museums in the United States and abroad.

- But the East Coast has no corner on top-notch exhibitions. A look at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's schedule reveals other impressive shows.

Anyone visiting the museum through April 25 can catch two great ones: "Degas to Matisse: The Maurice Wertheim Collection from the Harvard University Art Museums," and "Italian Drawings, 1350-1800: Masterworks from the Albertina."

The first is sprinkled generously with works not only by Degas and Matisse but also Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, van Gogh, Gauguin and Picasso. And there are more: Bonnard, Dufy, Maillol, Pissarro, Rousseau, Seurat and Toulouse-Lautrec.

Included in the second are 82 drawings from the 14th through the early 19th centuries. Well-known artists featured here include Bernini, Canova, Ghirlandaio, Michelangelo, Raphael, Tiepolo, Tintoretto, Veronese and others.

- The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is currently spotlighting work by Shin Takamatsu, a visionary, prolific Japanese architect who designed 35 buildings in the past 10 years; they are described as "emerging monuments of the Japanese city." Museumgoers can enjoy it through June 6.

Also on exhibit (through June 13) is a major retrospective of abstract expressionism by influential American painter Clyfford Still (1904-1980). The exhibit has been drawn from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., and holdings at SFMOMA. The exhibition marks the first time that the 31 works from Buffalo and 28 from San Francisco have been shown together.

- Not to be outdone, The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is highlighting "Art of the American Indian Frontier," a show that attracted thousands of fascinated viewers when it was displayed at the NGOA last year. This unparalleled collection features over 150 of the most important objects of American Indian art.

After it closed on May 9, this traveling show will go to The Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, WY (June 18-Sept. 12) and The Detroit Institute of Arts (Oct. 17, 1993 - Feb. 6, 1994).