Director: Kim Sajet
Total Full-time Employees: 97
Annual Budget (federal and trust) FY 2017: $11.2 million
Approximate Number of Artworks: 23,000
Visitors (2017): 1.3 million
The National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of the United States by presenting portrayals of individuals who have shaped the nation’s history and culture. The museum was established by an Act of Congress in 1962 and opened to the public Oct. 7, 1968. Its charter was to collect and display images of “men and women who have made significant contributions to the history, development and culture of the people of the United States.” For nearly 50 years, the National Portrait Gallery has presented the stories of individuals who have shaped America through visual biographies spanning the visual arts, performance and new media.
The museum’s collection holds more than 23,000 works, including the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House. The National Portrait Gallery is housed in the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, a National Historical Landmark that formerly served as the Old Patent Office in 19th century. The Portrait Gallery shares its home, known for its Greek revival architecture and elegant Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard designed by Fosters+Partners, with the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. The National Portrait Gallery is a bilingual institution and a member of the Smithsonian Institution.
The National Portrait Gallery’s collection includes a wide range of paintings, sculpture, photographs, drawings and media art. A catalog of the collection is available online. Prominent works include:
- “Lansdowne” portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, oil on canvas (1796) (acquired in 2001; restored and re-presented in September 2017)
- George Washington by Gilbert Stuart (the image on the $1 bill), oil on canvas (1796)
- Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Duplessis (the image on the $100 bill), oil on canvas (c. 1785)
- Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Gardner (“cracked-plate” portrait), albumen silver print (1865)
- John Quincy Adams by Philip Haas (1843 daguerreotype—the earliest known photographic likeness of a U.S. President)
- John F. Kennedy by Elaine de Kooning, oil on canvas (1963)
- President Barack Obama by Shepard Fairey, woodburytype (2008)
- John Brown by Augustus Washington, daguerreotype (c. 1846–47)
- Pocahontas by unidentified artist, after Simon van de Passe after 1616, oil on canvas
- Frederick Douglass by an unidentified artist, ambrotype (1856)
- Mary Cassatt by Edgar Degas, oil on canvas (c. 1880–84)
- Gertrude Stein by Jo Davidson, terra-cotta (1922–23)
- Charlie Chaplin by Edward Steichen, gelatin silver print (1925)
- Frida Kahlo by Magda Pach, oil on canvas (1933)
- Ethel Waters by Beauford Delaney, pastel on paper (1940)
- Beauford Delaney by Georgia O’Keeffe, pastel on paper (1943)
- John Coltrane by Roy DeCarava, gelatin silver print (1961)
- Muhammad Ali by Yousuf Karsh, gelatin silver print (1970)
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver by David Lenz, oil on canvas (2009)
- Hank Aaron by Ross R. Rossin, oil on canvas (2010)
In addition, the Portrait Gallery collection holds:
- More than 1,600 portraits of U.S. presidents
- 5,450 glass-plate negatives from the studios of Mathew Brady
- Original artwork for over 2,000 TIME magazine covers
Exhibitions and Programs
The museum has a vigorous schedule of special exhibitions that rotate throughout each year. Long-term permanent collection exhibitions include “America’s Presidents,” “American Origins,” “Twentieth-Century Americans” and “The Struggle for Justice.” The “One Life” is dedicated to a focused biography of one individual, while the museum’s third-floor mezzanines along the building’s historic Great Hall—at one time the largest room in America and the site of Lincoln’s second inaugural ball—contain the exhibitions “Bravo!” and “Champions,” which are devoted to those in the performing arts and sports, respectively.
The museum started its “Portraiture Now” series dedicated to contemporary artists in 2007 followed by “IDENTIFY: Performance Art as Portraiture” in 2015, and hosts a choreographer-in-residence. The National Portrait Gallery is also the organizer of the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition to encourage the next generation of artists working in portraiture and presents several touring exhibitions throughout the year.
The National Portrait Gallery commissions significant new work, including portraits of past presidents and first ladies upon their departure from office and public art and performances celebrating the genre of portraiture. In 2014, the National Portrait Gallery commissioned Cuban American artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada’s “Out of Many, One,” a temporary public art installation that stretched more than six acres of land along the National Mall.
The National Portrait Gallery offers a variety of programs, including free lectures, hands-on educational activities, performances and films. The Portrait Gallery also presents teacher workshops, family days and guided tours—including accessible programs—for thousands of people each year.
About the Museum
The National Portrait Gallery is part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture at Eighth and F streets N.W., Washington, D.C. Connect with the museum at npg.si.edu, Facebook, Instagram, blog, Twitter and YouTube.
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