Skip to main content

As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are temporarily closed to the public as of Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. We are not announcing a reopening date at this time.

Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson
Usage Conditions Apply
Betsy Graves Reyneau, 1888 - 1964
Marian Anderson, 27 Feb 1897 - 8 Apr 1993
Oil on canvas
Stretcher: 153 x 97.5 x 2.5cm (60 1/4 x 38 3/8 x 1")
Frame: 163.2 x 107.2 x 5.4cm (64 1/4 x 42 3/16 x 2 1/8")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Harmon Foundation
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
© Peter Edward Fayard
Object number
Exhibition Label
Born Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Arturo Toscanini said that Marian Anderson had a voice that came along “once in a hundred years.” When one of Anderson’s teachers first heard her sing, the magnitude of her talent moved him to tears. Because she was black, however, her initial prospects as a concert singer in this country were sharply limited, and her early professional triumphs mostly took place in Europe. The magnitude of her musical gifts ultimately won her recognition in the United States as well. Despite that acclaim the Daughters of the American Revolution banned her from performing at its Constitution Hall in 1939. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt ultimately intervened and facilitated Anderson’s Easter Sunday outdoor concert at the Lincoln Memorial—an event witnessed by 75,000 and broadcast to a radio audience of millions. The affair generated great sympathy for Anderson and became a defining moment in America’s civil rights movement.
Nacida en Filadelfia, Pensilvania
Según el famoso director Arturo Toscanini, Marian Anderson tenía una voz que se daba “una vez cada cien años”. En efecto, cuando uno de sus maestros la oyó cantar por primera vez, su talento lo conmovió hasta las lágrimas. Sin embargo, por ser afroamericana, sus perspectivas como cantante de concierto en este país fueron en un principio sumamente limitadas y sus primeros triunfos profesionales tuvieron lugar sobre todo en Europa. La magnitud de sus dotes musicales finalmente le ganó la fama también en Estados Unidos. A pesar de ese reconocimiento, la organización Hijas de la Revolución Americana le impidió presentarse en el Constitution Hall en 1939. La primera dama Eleanor Roosevelt acabó por intervenir y gestionó un concierto de Anderson el Domingo de Pascua frente al Monumento a Lincoln, evento presenciado por 75,000 personas y transmitido por radio a millones de oyentes. El incidente generó gran simpatía por Anderson y fue un momento decisivo en el movimiento por los derechos civiles.
The Harmon Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in New York City and active from (1922-1967) included this portrait in their exhibition “Portraits of Outstanding Americans of Negro Origins” which documented noteworthy African Americans’ contributions to the country. Modeling their goal of social equality, the Harmon sought portraits from an African-American artist, Laura Wheeler Waring and Euro-American artist, Betsy Graves Reyneau. The two painters followed the conventional codes of academic portraiture, seeking to convey their sitters extraordinary accomplishments. This painting, along with a variety of educational materials, toured nation-wide for ten years serving as a visual rebuttal to racism.
Harmon Foundation; gift 1967 to NPG.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
The Struggle for Justice
On View
NPG, West Gallery 220