Skip to main content

New Schedule: Beginning May 30, many Smithsonian museums will return to their normal operating hours, open seven days a week, including the National Portrait Gallery. We’re excited to welcome you! 

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington
Artist
William Paul Gottlieb, 28 Jan 1917 - 23 Apr 2006
Sitter
Duke Ellington, 29 Apr 1899 - 24 May 1974
Date
c. 1946 (printed 1991)
Type
Photograph
Medium
Gelatin silver print
Dimensions
Image: 34.1 x 26.7 cm (13 7/16 x 10 1/2")
Sheet: 35.3 x 27.9 cm (13 7/8 x 11")
Mat: 71.1 x 55.9 cm (28 x 22")
Topic
Costume
Music\Musical instrument\Piano
Printed Material\Document
Artwork\Photograph
Container\Bottle
Home Furnishings\Mirror
Interior\Dressing room
Music\Sheet music
Duke Ellington: Male
Duke Ellington: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Composer
Duke Ellington: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Pianist
Duke Ellington: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Jazz
Duke Ellington: Presidential Medal of Freedom
Portrait
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Restrictions & Rights
CC0
Object number
NPG.92.58
Exhibition Label
Duke Ellington was a jazz pianist and America’s greatest composer. He maintained his cool through an elegant aristocratic front that refused to recognize the country’s entrenched racism. Born and raised in the nation’s capital, Ellington established a national audience with a residency at Harlem’s Cotton Club. He wrote dance songs, three-minute concertos, spiritual works, thematic compositions about black life and culture, classics of the American songbook, and extended suites featuring Asian and Latin American motifs. His main instrument was his orchestra: he wrote for musicians as individuals. When he left space on the music score to improvise ("ad lib here"), he validated jazz as a democratic musical form. In 1965 he was denied a Pulitzer Prize by a judge who refused to give it to a black man. "Fate doesn’t want me to be famous too young," was his diplomatic reply. He is still worshipped by musicians the world over.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery