Catalog of American Portraits
The Catalog of American Portraits (CAP) is a national portrait archives maintaining information and images for nearly 200,000 portraits. The CAP maintains records of historically significant American portraits, i.e., portraits of notable American subjects or by notable American artists. New material is added regularly from various sources, including an ongoing survey of portraits held in public and private collections across the country and abroad. Generally, only one-of-a-kind likenesses are recorded, such as paintings, sculpture, drawings, miniatures, silhouettes, and daguerreotypes. Photographs, engravings, etchings, lithographs, and other graphic arts are generally not surveyed by the CAP; however, portraits in these media are included if they are in the collections or exhibitions of the National Portrait Gallery.
The CAP manual files contain, whenever possible, a photograph of the portrait, standard catalog data (medium, support, dimensions, condition), a description, current ownership, provenance, biographical sketches of subjects and artists, bibliographic references, and exhibition and conservation history. Often, archival correspondence and primary research material is included as well. A costume study comprised of more than 1,200 photographs of dated American portraits, from the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, is also available for examination and comparison.
National Portrait Survey
In 1971, the CAP initiated a national portrait survey involving professional on-site cataloging and photographing of portraits in public and private collections across the country. Funded in part by donations, including a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, field surveyors traveled to participating collections to examine the portraits firsthand and to gather additional information on each work. The on-site survey continues today, though all regions of the United States have now been covered at least preliminarily. The CAP depends on the cooperation of portrait owners and on interns and volunteers to assist in incorporating survey material into the CAP research files. Those interested in including their collections in our national portrait survey, or in assisting the CAP in some other way, are encouraged to contact the office for further information.
Service to Researchers
Since its establishment in 1966, the CAP has served many users. Collectors and curators have compared their own collections with similar portraits recorded here. Art historians and social historians have been aided in iconographic studies and in tracing the development of artists' careers. Writers and publishers have been led to sources for illustrations. Scholars and curators have located objects for exhibitions, and educators have developed programs for students of all ages. Finally, individual owners have a permanent physical and photographic description of their portraits on file in the CAP, useful in case of subsequent loss or damage.
Manual files and photographs may be examined by researchers, and searches may be requested on the computer database. Images are for study purposes only, and any requests for reproductions must be directed to the owners. The CAP reserves the right to protect information provided by the cooperating owners, and information concerning private collections is restricted or kept confidential when requested. Researchers may also write, telephone, fax, or E-mail their inquiries. A nominal fee is charged for printing large reports and photocopying archival material. CAP personnel cannot undertake extensive research for either individuals or institutions. The staff is not permitted to provide certification of authenticity or to give appraisals.
Online access of unrestricted data and images is available via the Portrait Search page, here on the Gallery's web site.
Hours and Location
The CAP is open to the public, preferably by appointment, on weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except for federal holidays. Located in the National Portrait Gallery offices in the Victor Building at 750 9th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., the Catalog of American Portraits can be reached by taking the red, yellow, or green Metro line to Gallery Place, 9th and G Street exit.
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Catalog of American Portraits
National Portrait Gallery
P.O. Box 37012, MRC 973
Washington, DC 20013-7012
Phone: (202) 633-8260
FAX: (202) 633-8254
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