About Us

Experience portraiture beyond the frame. Our collections present people of remarkable character and achievement. These Americans—artists, politicians, scientists, inventors, activists, and performers—form our national identity. They help us understand who we are and remind us of what we can aspire to be. Get to know us at the National Portrait Gallery. We look forward to sharing the faces and stories of inspiring Americans with you.

Our Mission

The mission of the National Portrait Gallery is to tell the story of America by portraying the people who shape the nation’s history, development and culture.

Our Collection

The National Portrait Gallery was authorized and founded by Congress in 1962 with the mission to acquire and display portraits of individuals who have made significant contributions to the history, development, and culture of the people of the United States. Today, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery continues to narrate the multi-faceted and ever-changing story of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts, and new media, the Portrait Gallery presents poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives form our national identity.

As the nation's only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House, the "America's Presidents" exhibition lies at the heart of the Portrait Gallery's mission to tell the country's history through the individuals who have shaped it. Gilbert Stuart's "Lansdowne" painting of George Washington is the grand introductory image to this exhibition. In 2000, the Portrait Gallery was in danger of losing this painting—which had been on loan since the museum's opening in 1968—when its owner decided to sell it. A generous gift from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation allowed the "Lansdowne" painting to be purchased as a gift to the nation. "America's Presidents" continues to acquire portraits—including paintings, sculpture, photographs, caricatures, video, and time-based media—of each succeeding president.

Over the years the collections, which were initially restricted to paintings, prints, drawings, and engravings, have grown to over 23,000 items in all media, from daguerreotypes to digital. In the late 1990s, the Portrait Gallery began commissioning portraits of presidents, beginning with George H. W. Bush. In 2006, the Portrait Gallery hosted the first Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, now a prestigious triennial event, which also brings commissioned works into the collection. The 2013 winner was Bo Gehring, whose close-up video and sound portrait of jazz musician Esperanza Spalding draws delight and praise from visitors.

Our Commissioners

Joseph Ujobai, Chair, Pennsylvania
Wemimo Abbey, California
Margaret Anadu, New York
Rick Atkinson, Washington, DC
Lyndon J. Barrois, California
Shane Berg, Virginia
Devin W. Blackburn, Illinois and Georgia
Cynthia Malkin Blumenthal, Connecticut
Teresa Carlson, Washington, DC
Sunil Chhabra, Washington, DC
George C. Fatheree, III, California
Lisa Goodman, Washington
Mary R. Nina Henderson, New York
Michael S. Hollander, Illinois
Nancy Lee Kemper, Missouri
David L. McCombs, Texas
Samuel M. Mencoff, Illinois
Patricia Quealy Moore, Esq., Florida
The Honorable Maria Otero, Washington, DC
Eduardo Rabassa, Florida
Elizabeth P. Ryan, New York
John H. Simpson, Illinois
Robert Uhler, Colorado
ShiPu Wang, California
Mack Wilbourn, Georgia

Ex-Officio Commissioners

Lonnie G. Bunch III
Kaywin Feldman
The Honorable John G. Roberts, Jr.

Alumni Commissioners

James T. Bartlett
The Honorable Anthony C. Beilenson+
John Boochever*
Catherine Drinker Bowen+
Julian P. Boyd+
Daniel Brewster
Dr. John Nicholas Brown+
Danielle Parris Canfield
Dr. Thanh Cao-Dac
Rose Carter
Marta Casals Istomin
Sheryll D. Cashin
Anna Chavez
David M. Childs, FAIA
Armeane Choksi
Mrs. Sally G. Chubb
The Honorable Jeannine Smith Clark+
Peter Claussen
Major General Michael Collins, U.S.A.F. (Ret.)
Dr. Charles E. Crutchfield
Robert Dallek
Lewis Deschler+
Joan Kent Dillon+
Elizabeth Dubin
Thomas M. Evans+
Dr. Linda S. Ferber
David E. Finley+
Dr. Ella M. Foshay
Glen S. Fukushima
Alma Gildenhorn
Professor Stephen Jay Gould+
Steven K. Hamp
Michael N. Harreld
Julie Harris+
Dr. Manuel L. Ibanez
Dr. Jane Kamensky
Jill Krementz
Julia Leach
Jill Lepore, Ph.D.
Randi Levine
Professor David Levering Lewis
R. W. B. Lewis+
Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis+
Bette Bao Lord
Jon B. Lovelace+
Antonio Lucio, California
The Honorable Bonnie McElveen-Hunter
Robert L. McNeil, Jr.+
Amy F. Meadows
Joan A. Mondale+
The Honorable Robert B. Morgan+
Roger Harrison Mudd+
Constance Berry Newman
Professor Barbara Novak
Daniel Okrent
Dennis O’Toole
Michael Outwin
Tom Pegues
Cathy Podell*
Dr. Richard J. Powell
Azita Raji
E. James Reinsch
Edgar P. Richardson+
Tim Ryan
Cristian Samper, Ph.D
Karla Scherer
Pam Scott
Clara J. Shin
Richard H. Shryock
W. Dean Smith+
Fred W. Smith+
R. Ted Steinbock, M.D.
Dr. Paul G. Stern
Timothy J. Sullivan
Alyssa Taubman
Carl D. Thoma
Frederick P. Todd+
Mallory Walker
Jack H. Watson, Jr.
Dr. John Wilmerding
William D. Wittliff+

* Emeritus
+ Deceased