Skip to main content

J. Robert Oppenheimer

Artist
Ernest Hamlin Baker, 1889 - 1975
Sitter
J. Robert Oppenheimer, 22 Apr 1904 - 18 Feb 1967
Date
1948
Type
Painting
Medium
Gouache and watercolor on illustration board
Dimensions
Board: 24.1 x 21.6cm (9 1/2 x 8 1/2")
Mat: 55.9 x 40.6cm (22 x 16")
Frame: 46.4 x 41.3 x 2.5cm (18 1/4 x 16 1/4 x 1")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time magazine
Restrictions & Rights
© Estate of Ernest Hamlin Baker
Object number
NPG.78.TC655
Exhibition Label
Born New York City
As the Manhattan Project began developing an atomic weapon in the months following America’s entry into World War II, Robert Oppenheimer’s prominence among physicists inevitably drew him into the effort. By late 1942, he was presiding over the project’s laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Over the next three years, his skill in encouraging cooperative openness on a staff heavily peopled with arrogant geniuses—along with his own remarkable ability to absorb new data—became crucial to the project’s advancement. But when success finally came with the explosion of the world’s first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, Oppenheimer’s sense of triumph was mixed with sadness. All he could think of, he later recalled, was a passage from the Hindu sacred work “Bhagavad Gita”: “I am become Death, the destroyer of Worlds.”
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection