Greenberg Steinhauser Forum in American Portraiture

This conversation-oriented forum provides specialists with the opportunity to investigate original objects and to engage in scholarly dialogue.

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the recent passing of Daniel B. Greenberg, whose generosity and that of his wife Susan, makes the Greenberg Steinhauser Forum in American Portraiture possible. Dan’s passion for collecting made an impact on the National Portrait Gallery through his support of our commissioned portrait of President William J. Clinton and two photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson as a gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser.  Dan was an extraordinary person, whose commitment to scholarship has expanded the conversation around portraiture today, and will never be forgotten. 

Previous programs

Terrains of Visuality in the U.S. Imperial Archipelago

Friday, June 9

Lanny Thompson, professor emeritus at the University of Puerto Rico, will deliver a public keynote address highlighting themes from the National Portrait Gallery's landmark exhibition "1898: U.S. Imperial Visions and Revisions." Thompson's work analyzes the visual representations of the U.S. empire, the colonial gaze and their relation to early systems of governance in Puerto Rico and across the “imperial archipelago.” The hour-long program included a Q&A, followed by a public reception.

Portraiture and Slavery: Reflections and Resistance

Tuesday, January 31

This conversation with Drs. Adrienne L. Childs, John Stauffer, and Jennifer Van Horn explores the approaches to portraiture made during slavery and in relation to slavery and race. Discover how the use of photography, prints, material culture, and painting in this context varied according to sectional differences in the United States as well as across the Atlantic.

Moderated by Portrait Gallery Historian Kate Clarke Lemay, this program is hosted by PORTAL, the museum’s Scholarly Center, and is part of the Greenberg Steinhauser Forum in American Portraiture.

Painting Nostalgia: Jewish Portraits at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022

In the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston are three compelling portraits of Jewish sitters. Although painted by different artists and in different contexts, "The Talmudist" by Jacob Binder, "Hannah" by Isidor Kaufmann, and "Jewish Man Reading" by Edouard Brandon share an often-neglected common trait: they were all made by Jewish artists who found success in wider, secular society through other subjects and genres. What drew these cosmopolitan, secular artists to deeply traditional Jewish sitters and scenes? 

Moderated by Portrait Gallery Historian Kate Clarke Lemay, this program is hosted by PORTAL, the museum’s Scholarly Center, and is part of the Greenberg Steinhauser Forum in American Portraiture.

Soichi Sakamoto and the Three-Year Swim Club: A Conversation with Julie Checkoway and Kelli Y. Nakamura 

Tuesday, Aug. 16

Presented by Julie Checkoway, author of the “New York Times” bestseller “The Three-Year Swim Club,” which is in development as a major motion picture; and Kelli Y. Nakamura, associate professor at Kapi’olani Community College and author of the article “Soichi Sakamoto and the Three-Year Swim Club: ‘The World’s Greatest Swimming Coach.’”

New Approaches to Representing Women in Science

March 22, 2022

A dialogue between historians of science Leila McNeill and Anna Reser, co-founders of the independent magazine “Lady Science” and co-authors of “Forces of Nature: The Women Who Changed Science,” and Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, a multidisciplinary artist known for portraiture projects, including “Beyond Curie.” Lacey Baradel, science historian at the National Portrait Gallery, moderated the conversation.

Edmonia Lewis and Wendell Phillips:
Kate Clarke Lemay in Conversation with Kirsten Pai Buick and Hélène Quainquin

Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022 

This conversation about the anti-slavery movement, centered on the biographies and portraits of Wendell Phillips and Edmonia Lewis. Known for her medallion busts, sculptor Edmonia Lewis often portrayed abolitionists, African Americans and Native Americans, in addition to biblical and mythological figures. Early in her career, Lewis created a medallion bust of Wendell Phillips, an abolitionist who also advocated for temperance, women’s rights, Native Americans’ rights and labor rights. Through his conversational speaking style, Phillips became a key orator for the abolitionist movement.

José María Mora, Napoleon Sarony, and the Migrant Surround in American Portrait Photography

Tuesday, Jan. 25, 5 p.m. ET

This presentation considers how the spaces of photographic portrait studios were constructed to facilitate the performance of diverse American identities during the late nineteenth century. José María Mora, a Cuban-born U.S. photographer, and his mentor Napoleon Sarony, a native French speaker born in Quebec, rose to prominence during the Gilded Age for staging lush portrait tableaus that deployed hand-painted backdrops and richly theatrical studio effects. Conventionally, the vivid artifice of their work has been connected to the commercial excesses of the period. Deeper consideration of both photographers’ immigrant status, however, helps illuminate how publicly circulated portraiture participated in the renegotiation of national types at an historical moment when more than 12 million new arrivals to the United States were reinventing and revitalizing what it meant to be American.

Toward an African Methodist Episcopal Aesthetic Idyll: Art and Images at Wilberforce University

October 5, 2021
Presented by Melanee Harvey, PhD, assistant professor & coordinator of art history at Howard University. Martha S. Jones, PhD, the Society of Black Alumni Presidential professor, professor of history, and professor at the SNF Agora Institute at the Johns Hopkins University moderated the Q & A.

This presentation will examine how art and strategies of visual representation were used to present Wilberforce University, one of the nation’s first historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU), as an aesthetic idyll.

Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West with author Lauren Redniss

November 16
Presented by Lauren Redniss, artist, author, MacArthur fellow, and associate professor at the Parsons School of Design. Sharyl Pahe-Short, visitor services manager at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, will moderate the Q & A. 

In this presentation, Lauren Redniss will explore the ongoing Oak Flat controversy and examine its place in the history of Indigenous land expropriation in the United States.

First in War, First in Peace, First in the Arts of His Countrymen: Charles Willson Peale, George Washington, and the Visual Creation of American Identity

Tuesday, August 3
Presented by Rick Herrera, professor of strategy at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. Followed by a Q & A moderated by Kate Clarke Lemay, the Portrait Gallery’s acting senior historian and interim director of PORTAL.

Charles Willson Peale's portraits familiarized Americans and Europeans with Washington, presenting the man, the cause, and the republic as one and the same. 

Portraits of Promised Lands: In Conversation with Ying-chen Peng and Philip Tinari

Tuesday, Sept. 21
A dialogue between Philip Tinari, director and CEO of the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, and Ying-chen Peng, assistant professor in the department of art at American University. Dorothy Moss, curator of painting and sculpture at the National Portrait Gallery and coordinating curator for the Smithsonian American Women's History Initiative moderated the conversation.

This conversation focused on Hung Liu's artistic journey, and explored her approach to portraiture in the context of Chinese historical and contemporary art.

¡Printing the Revolution! In Conversation with E. Carmen Ramos and Claudia Zapata

Tuesday, July 13

Presented by E. Carmen Ramos, acting chief curator & curator of Latinx art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Claudia Zapata, curatorial assistant at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Taína Caragol, the Portrait Gallery’s curator of painting and sculpture & Latinx art and history, will moderate the Q &A.

In the 1960s, Chicano activist artists forged a remarkable history of printmaking rooted in cultural expression and social justice movements that remains vital today. 

Enduring Images: Enslaved People and Photography in the Antebellum South 

Tuesday, May 11
Presented by Matthew Fox-Amato, Assistant Professor of History, University of Idaho 

From the 1840s to the end of the Civil War, some enslaved people paid to have their photographs taken and then used these portraits to shape their identities and social ties. 

Exhibiting the First Ladies: A Curator’s Perspective

On February 16, 2021, Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, the Class of 1940 Bicentennial Term Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Pennsylvania, presented her research and insights from curating “Every Eye Is Upon Me: First Ladies of the United States.” The presentation was followed by a Q & A moderated by Portrait Gallery Acting Senior Historian, Kate Clarke Lemay.

Native American Women and the Politics of Portraiture at the Turn of the 20th Century

March 2, 2021: Presented by Cathleen D. Cahill, Associate Professor of History, Penn State University, with a Q & A moderated by Cécile R. Ganteaume, curator, National Museum of the American Indian.

This presentation explores how two Native American activists, Marie Bottineau Baldwin (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) and Gertrude Bonnin, also known as Zitkala-Ša (Yankton Dakota), strategically used self-presentation–especially clothing and portraiture–to change public opinion about Native communities in their fight for political rights.

IDENTIFY: Genevieve Gaignard and Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz in Conversation with Taína Caragol 

On Tuesday, August 18, Portrait Gallery curator Taína Caragol engaged artists Genevieve Gaignard and Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz in a discussion of their individual photographic and performance practices. Gaignard’s work is featured in “The Outwin 2019” exhibition of contemporary portraiture, while Raimundi-Ortiz has participated in the Portrait Gallery’s IDENTIFY performance art series. 


Asian man and blond woman in black

IDENTIFY: Lee Mingwei and Birita Poulsen with Leslie Ureña  

On Tuesday September 1, 2020, Portrait Gallery curator Leslie Ureña interviewed artist Lee Mingwei and vocalist Birita Poulsen about the transnational aspect of Lee's work and the impact of the pandemic on performance art. Lee Mingwei’s Sonic Blossom (2013–present) was presented as part of the Portrait Gallery’s IDENTIFY performance art series in 2018. Birita Poulsen will performed Invitation for Dawn (2020), a sister project of Sonic Blossom developed by Lee that made it possible for one-to-one encounters between participants and performers online via Zoom.

3/4 view of a young woman
Photo: Peter Adamik / 1B1Orchestra, Norway

One Life: Marian Anderson held on Friday, January 17, 2020
Keynote presentation by mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall Moran


IDENTIFY: Jeffrey Gibson and María Magdalena Campos-Pons with Dorothy Moss 

On July 7, 2020, Portrait Gallery curator Dorothy Moss joined in conversation with artists María Magdalena Campos-Pons and Jeffrey Gibson to discuss issues of identity and strategies for reinserting BIPOC histories into museum spaces through live performance and object making.


group of people listening to a lecture in a gallery

Black Out: Silhouettes Then and Now held on December 14, 2018

group of women posed in an exhibition

Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence held on April 18, 2019

Keynote lecture by Lisa Tetrault, PhD, Carnegie Mellon University “Persistence, Resistance, & Framing the Nineteenth Amendment”