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. 

Upcoming programs:

Old print of several photos of African American life

Toward an African Methodist Episcopal Aesthetic Idyll: Art and Images at Wilberforce University, 1863­–1914 

Tuesday, Oct. 5, 5:00 p.m. 
Online via Zoom 
Closed captioning provided

Presented by Melanee Harvey, assistant professor & coordinator of art history at Howard University. Martha S. Jones, the Society of Black Alumni Presidential professor, professor of history, and a professor at the SNF Agora Institute at The Johns Hopkins University will moderate the Q & A.

As the first independent African American religious denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church maintains a historic position as one of the oldest surviving African American institutions. Through the use and circulation of visual culture, the AME denomination established a cultural base of Black Formalist sensibilities rooted in uplift and cultural definition.

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 shaped by Bishop Daniel Payne and other AME bishops of the late nineteenth century. Denominational leadership marshalled images of the AME’s flagship educational institution as evidence of racial advancement. Specifically, photographs displayed at national expositions and published in the Christian Recorder promoted their message. This analysis will also consider the role of art collections and art education at Wilberforce University.  

This program is part of the Greenberg Steinhauser Forum in American Portraiture Conversation Series sponsored by Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser and is hosted by PORTAL, the Portrait Gallery’s Scholarly Center. 

Free—Registration required.

Oak Flat book cover

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

Tuesday, Nov. 16, 5 p.m. 
Online via Zoom 
Closed captioning provided 

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. 

Oak Flat, an oasis in the Arizona desert, is a holy place, an ancient burial ground and a religious site where Apache girls celebrate the coming-of-age ritual known as the Sunrise Ceremony. In 1995, the largest known, untapped copper reserve in North America was discovered nearby. A decade later, the U.S. Congress passed a law transferring the area to an international conglomerate, whose planned copper mine will wipe Oak Flat off the map—sending its natural springs, petroglyph-covered rocks, and old-growth trees tumbling into a void.  

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. Additionally, she will discuss her approach to “visual nonfiction,” the role of portraiture in her work and the possibilities of unconventional storytelling forms. 

This program is part of the Greenberg Steinhauser Forum in American Portraiture Conversation Series sponsored by Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser and is hosted by PORTAL, the Portrait Gallery’s Scholarly Center. 

Free—Registration required.


Previous programs

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.

Hung Liu, who was born in Changchun, China, in 1948, experienced political revolution, exile, and displacement before immigrating to the United States. She came of age during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution (1966–76) and was consequently forced to labor in the fields for four years in her early twenties before going on to study at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Liu left China in 1984 to attend graduate school at the University of California, San Diego. At UCSD, the experimental tendencies of her advisor, foundational performance artist Allan Kaprow and other artists helped cultivate her conceptual approach to portraiture. This conversation focused on Liu's artistic journey, and explored her approach to portraiture in the context of Chinese historical and contemporary art.

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
Online via Zoom

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 was the first artist to have portrayed George Washington in uniform from life. Washington sat for Peale seven times — more than for any other artist. Beginning with his earliest works, Peale channeled his politics and those of his patrons through his brush. His portraits familiarized Americans and Europeans with Washington, presenting the man, the cause, and the republic as one and the same. 

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

Tuesday, July 13 | Online via Zoom

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. The exhibition “¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now” presents, for the first time, historical civil rights-era prints by Chicano artists alongside works by graphic artists active from the 1980s to today. It considers how artists innovatively use graphic arts to build community, engage the public around ongoing social justice concerns, and wrestle with shifting notions of the term “Chicano.”

Enduring Images: Enslaved People and Photography in the Antebellum South 

Tuesday, May 11 | Online via Zoom 
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. Slave narratives, newspapers and studio records reveal that some enslaved individuals bought images from local photographers, stowed images of sold family members in their cabins and carried images of family on their persons. Considering enslaved people as active agents of early photography, this talk examines what their photographic practices meant, especially in relation to the violent disruptions of the domestic slave trade. It also reflects upon possibilities for writing the history of portraiture when the relevant images are not available. 

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.

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.

This program is part of the Greenberg Steinhauser Forum in American Portraiture Conversation Series, hosted by PORTAL, the Portrait Gallery's Scholarly Center.

We are grateful for the generosity of the following donors whose support has made “Every Eye Is Upon Me: First Ladies of the United States” possible: Robert and Arlene Kogod, Morgan Stanley, Jonathan and Nancy Lee Kemper, Reinsch Pierce Family Foundation by Lola C. Reinsch, John H. Simpson Charitable Trust, Terra Foundation for America Art, Dr. Paul and Mrs. Rose Carter, The Honorable Joseph and Alma Gildenhorn, Ronnyjane Goldsmith, Michael and Catherine Podell, Mr. and Mrs. John Daniel Reaves, Lynda Thomas, Susan and David McCombs.

This exhibition received support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

Asian man and blond woman in black
Left: Lee Mingwei (detail) photo by Matteo Carcelli; originally published in Gallery, September-October 2016, National Gallery of Victoria. Right: Birita Poulsen, LMN CORONA KONZERT - Schubert und die Gitarre (YouTube)


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.

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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. 


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. 
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

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”

group of people listening to a lecture in a gallery

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