National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Ira Gershwin
Restrictions & Rights
Born Brooklyn, New York
In 1916 Jacob Gershvin, born of Russian Jewish immigrants, published, on Sophie Tucker’s recommendation,"When You Want ’Em, You Can’t Get ’Em—When You’ve Got ’Em, You Don’t Want ’Em," earning him five dollars. From such inauspicious beginnings came George Gershwin, one of the great American composers of the twentieth century. Initially drawn to stage musicals, Gershwin had several Broadway hits in the 1920s, most notably Lady Be Good with his brother Ira. His style evolved from hits like "Swanee" to sophisticated ballads like "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "The Man I Love." Gershwin experimented with placing jazz in a symphonic form with Rhapsody in Blue, opening to mixed reviews but thrilling audiences since its debut in 1924. His 1928 An American in Paris remains a classic. Porgy and Bess (1935), "an American folk opera," broke new ground in musical and social terms. Gershwin’s music remains immensely popular, a major fixture of the American songbook.
Ira Gershwin, the artist’s brother; gift 1966 to NPG.
Previous Provenance: The Sitter/Artist; to brother, Ira; through Mr. Sandor Ince