On View

Profile view of a young Asian woman with elaborate hair

Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands

Hung Liu (1948–2021) was a contemporary Chinese-born American artist, whose multilayered paintings established new frameworks for understanding portraiture in relation to time, memory, and history. Often sourcing her subjects from photographs, Liu elevated overlooked individuals by amplifying the stories of those who have historically been invisible or unheard. Having lived through war, political revolution, exile, and displacement, she offered a complex picture of an Asian Pacific American experience. Her portraits speak powerfully to those seeking a better life, in the United States and elsewhere. Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands will be first major exhibition of the artist's work on the East Coast. This is also the first time that a museum will focus on Liu’s portraiture.

>> Read more and take a virtual tour of the exhibition

map overview of Washington

Block By Block: Naming Washington

The National Portrait Gallery will explore the namesakes of Washington, D.C.’s streets, avenues, neighborhoods and other public spaces in the new exhibition “Block by Block: Naming Washington.” Featuring reproductions of 16 portraits, drawn mostly from the museum’s collection, the exhibition will present the faces and biographies behind some of the city’s most familiar locations, introducing visitors to those whose names are part of the nation’s capital. “Block by Block,” curated by the National Portrait Gallery’s curator of photographs, Leslie Ureña, will be on view in the museum’s second-floor Riley Gallery July 30 to Jan. 16, 2023.

View this exhibition on Google Arts & Culture

woman in a white dress sitting on a porch

Her Story: A Century of Women Writers

On view through Jan. 23, 2022
First floor

“Her Story: A Century of Women Writers” celebrates some of the country’s most influential authors. This permanent collection exhibition features portraits of 24 women, including Margaret Wise Brown, Sandra Cisneros, Lorraine Hansberry, Toni Morrison, Anne Sexton, Susan Sontag, Anne Tyler, and Alice Walker. Whether using their life experiences or powers of imagination, each of these writers has made a significant contribution to American literature. Several have won Pulitzer Prizes, Nobel Prizes, or both, and their personal stories—in addition to those they have written—offer insight and inspiration.

This exhibition is part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, “Because of Her Story.” “Her Story: A Century of Women Writers” is curated by Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw.

>> View portraits in the exhibition

Bust-length black and white photo of a man with dark hair in a suit and tie

Visionary: The Cumming Family Collection (Part II)

On view through Oct. 31, 2021
Second floor

Installed in two parts, “Visionary: The Cumming Family Collection” celebrates a major acquisition of 22 contemporary portraits recently gifted or promised to the Portrait Gallery by Ian and Annette Cumming. Part II features portraits by American artists Jack Beal, Chuck Close and Nelson Shanks, which were either commissioned or acquired by the Cummings during more than 25 years of collecting, in consultation with their friend D. Dodge Thompson. This second phase of the exhibition includes likenesses of prominent leaders Al Gore, President Barack Obama, and Edward O. Wilson. “Visionary: The Cumming Family Collection” is curated by Portrait Gallery Chief Curator Emerita Brandon Brame Fortune. Part I of the exhibition opened prior to the museum’s closure in late November 2020 and is no longer on view.

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stop action photo of a dancer waving his arms

Recent Acquisitions: Gifts from the Corcoran Gallery of Art

Extended through Oct. 23, 2022
First Floor

Portraits from the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s collection are featured in this exhibition of recent acquisitions. Following the Corcoran’s closure in 2014, the Portrait Gallery received 80 works from the country’s first private museum. This exhibition presents more than 20 donated works, including portraits of musician Louis Armstrong, publishing icon Katharine Graham and artist Frida Kahlo; presidents Chester Arthur and Zachary Taylor; and the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Joseph Henry. The lead curator for this exhibition is Portrait Gallery Chief Curator Emerita Brandon Brame Fortune.

>> View portraits in the exhibition

full length photograph of a woman in a Civil War uniform

Storied Women of the Civil War Era

On view through February 6, 2022
First floor

During the Civil War era, numerous women rose to national prominence—from First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln to the actress and Union spy Pauline Cushman. This intimate exhibition includes portraits of these and other intriguing women who captivated the public while becoming sought-after subjects for Mathew Brady’s camera. Ann Shumard, the National Portrait Gallery’s senior curator of photographs, is the curator of this exhibition.

>> View portraits from the exhibition

full length portrait of a little girl

“Warranted to Give Satisfaction”: Daguerreotypes by Jeremiah Gurney

On view through February 6, 2022
First floor

Shortly after the daguerreotype process was revealed to the public in 1839, Jeremiah Gurney (1812–1895) acquired a rudimentary camera and began experimenting with the first practical method of photography. A jeweler by profession, he gave up that trade in favor of daguerreotypy in 1840 and established one of New York City’s first daguerreotype studios in a building at 189 Broadway. In the years that followed, Gurney built his reputation as one of the city’s leading daguerreotypists. Despite vigorous competition from rivals such as Mathew Brady, Gurney produced daguerreotypes hailed as “nearer to absolute perfection” than those of other camera artists.

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Man in a suit seated in a large leather chair in the Oval Office

America’s Presidents

Second Floor

The museum reopens its signature exhibition, “America’s Presidents,” with a newly acquired photograph of Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States. This portrait of President Trump is one of several photographs by the award-winning New York–based photographer Pari Dukovic while on assignment for Time magazine. Taken on June 17, 2019, the day before Trump officially announced he would seek reelection, this photograph shows him at the Resolute Desk, which has been in the White House almost continuously since 1880. The flags in the background, placed in the office during Trump’s presidency, reflect the five branches of the armed forces (left to right): Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. Also visible in the background (left) is Asher B. Durand’s  portrait of Andrew Jackson (1835), a figure whom President Trump alluded to frequently. On the right is a portrait of Benjamin Franklin (c. 1785) by Joseph Duplessis, on loan to the White House from the National Portrait Gallery. “America’s Presidents” features likenesses of every former U.S. president, beginning with George Washington.

An online version of the exhibition is accessible at: americaspresidents.si.edu.


woman lounging on a couch


Third floor mezzanine

The creative diversity of the American experience is remarkably expressed in the exuberance, elegance, and dynamism of its performing arts. “Bravo!” presents a vibrant showcase of the performers who brought these arts to life. Beginning in years when artists performed only live and without microphones, “Bravo!” covers the technological evolution that has made performance accessible at the click of a mouse. Throughout, these artists have played a vital role in American life and culture, and their ongoing contributions continue to inspire the national character.

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colorful abstract portrait of baseball players


Third floor mezzanine

Americans are passionate about sports. Whether it’s baseball or boxing, hockey or horse racing, we delight in celebrating the triumphs and record-breaking feats of each new generation of champions and measuring their achievements against the performances of earlier athletic stars. Regardless of our age or background, we share a common bond as sports fans when we experience the exhilaration of hard-fought victories or the disappointment of heartbreaking defeats. Through it all, we draw inspiration from the lives and achievements of our nation’s great sports figures, whose competitive spirit and dogged pursuit of excellence mirror our own struggles and aspirations.

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Images (top to bottom): 

  • Chinese Profile II / Hung Liu / 1998, Oil on canvas / San Jose Museum of Art, Museum purchase with funds contributed by the Council of 100
  • A 1902 Bird's Eye View of the Geneal Plan of Washington / Francis Laurens Vinton Hoppin / 1902 / United States Commission of Fine Arts; courtesy of the White House Historical Association
  • Sandra Cisneros by Al Rendon, Inkjet print, 1998 (printed 2014), Acquisition made possible through the Smithsonian Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center. © Al Rendon
  • Al Gore by Chuck Close, Jacquard tapestry, 2009. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Ian M. and Annette P. Cumming. © Chuck Close.
  • Gustave “Gus” Solomons Jr. by Harold Edgerton / Gelatin silver print, 1960 (printed c.1980–81 by Gus Kayafas) / Gift from the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Pete Kayafas) / © Harold Edgerton / MIT, courtesy Palm Press, Inc.
  • Pauline Cushman, attributed to the Mathew Brady Studio, modern albumen print from wet collodion negative of 1864. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Frederick Hill Meserve Collection
  • Ida Josephine Babbitt by Jeremiah Gurney / Quarter-plate daguerreotype with applied color, 1849 / Terry J. Alphonse, Alphonse Gallery
  • President Donald J. Trump for Time magazine in 2019 by Pari Dukovic, inkjet print, 2019 (printed 2020). Published in Time magazine, July 1, 2019. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution / © 2019 Pari Dukovic.
  • Miss Julia Marlowe by Irving Ramsey Wiles / National Gallery of Art, Washington, gift of Julia Marlowe Sothern / L/NPG.11.2006
  • Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris by Russell Hoban / c. 1961, Casein on board / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time magazine