Since its opening in 1968, the National Portrait Gallery has focused on exhibiting portraits of individuals who have significantly influenced U.S. history and culture. "Out of Many: Portraits from 1600 to 1900" includes portraits of Indigenous Americans, European colonists, clergymen, soldiers, writers, performers, scientists, and others who helped shape the country.
Portraiture—particularly before the advent of photography in 1839—reflects the reality of unequal economic and social structures. While visiting the museum's first-floor galleries, you will find that the portraits of wealthy, powerful people greatly outnumber those without such status. There are more images of men than of women and more pictures of people of European descent than those of other backgrounds.
The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges this imbalance and is constantly striving to diversify its collection in order to present a more comprehensive story of our nation. As you view "Out of Many," we encourage you to consider the lives of these complex subjects and the ways that society and portraiture have changed since the seventeenth century.
“Out of Many: Portraits from 1600 to 1900” is sponsored by Ann S. and Samuel M. Mencoff, the Terra Foundation for American Art, and Jefferson County Convention & Visitors Bureau.