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Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery Announces Director’s Essay Prize For Emerging Scholars in the Field of Portraiture

Call for Nominations Open Now Through Dec. 14

September 14, 2018

In honor of the National Portrait Gallery’s 50th anniversary, the museum has announced the newly founded Director’s Essay Prize. The biennial award will foster leading research and will support emerging scholars whose expertise includes the field of visual biography and American portraiture. The award includes a cash prize of $3,000 for the author of a published essay that explores and enriches the interdisciplinary nature of American art, biography, history and cultural identity. The recipient will be asked to present a paper on their essay topic at the National Portrait Gallery during an award ceremony in fall 2019.

To qualify, scholarly essays must be under 12,000 words and must have been published in print or online within the past two years (details below). Jurors will consider essays that have either appeared in an academic journal or in a university press and/or museum publication between January 2016 and December 2018. Authors must be within seven years of having earned their PhD at the time of submission. The award is by nomination only, and authors and publishers may not self-nominate. The deadline for nominations is 5 p.m. EST Dec. 14. For additional details on requirements, please visit the Portrait Gallery’s website.

The Director’s Essay Prize complements the Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, a triennial juried exhibition established in 2006, and is specifically dedicated to supporting the next wave of written scholarship on portraiture.


Award Process

The National Portrait Gallery’s scholarly center for the study of portraiture, PORTAL= Portraiture + Analysis, will appoint three scholars as jurors for the prize. Essays will be judged for their originality, interdisciplinary practice and enrichment of the field of American portraiture.

The prizewinner will be announced in spring/summer 2019 and will travel to present their essay topic at an awards ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery in fall 2019.

National Portrait Gallery

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of the United States through the individuals who have shaped American culture. Spanning the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists, whose lives tell the American story.

The National Portrait Gallery is part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture at Eighth and F Streets NW, Washington, D.C. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Connect with the museum at npg.si.edu, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and the museum’s blog.

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