Catalog of American Portraits

The Catalog of American Portraits (CAP) is a national portrait archive maintaining information and images for more than 200,000 American portraits in public and private collections throughout the United States and abroad..

NOTICE: The Catalog of American Portraits is closed for renovation through December 2019; however, our online portrait search is up and running.

Results will Include National Portrait Gallery collection

What We Collect

Established in 1966, the CAP continues to acquire new material regularly and includes an ongoing survey of portraits held in collections across the country and abroad. Only one-of-a-kind likenesses are recorded, such as paintings, sculpture, drawings, miniatures, silhouettes, and daguerreotypes. Photographs, engravings, etchings, lithographs, and other graphic arts are not included, except those in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection and some Portrait Gallery exhibitions.

The CAP manual files contain a photograph of the portrait, standard catalog data, current ownership, provenance, and biographical sketches of subjects and artists. Often, archival correspondence and primary research material is included as well. A costume study of dated American portraits, from the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, is also available for examination and comparison.

many small thumbnail portraits from different timeperiods

Our Services

When the archive reopens in July, researchers may request assistance with searches by phone or e-mail, and may visit by appointment to examine manual files from Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. (closed on federal holidays).

View our Guide to Research Resources for Portraiture, Biography, and History >>

Images are for study purposes only, and any requests for reproductions must be directed to the owners. The CAP reserves the right to protect information provided by the cooperating owners, and information concerning private collections is restricted or kept confidential when requested. CAP personnel cannot undertake extensive research for either individuals or institutions. The staff is not permitted to provide certification of authenticity or to give appraisals. A nominal fee is charged for printing large reports and photocopying archival material.

How You Can Help

The CAP depends on the assistance of portrait owners, interns, and volunteers.

Include your collection in our national portrait survey by downloading our  Portrait Survey Form (PDF)
Please mail the form via the U.S. Postal Service to:

Catalog of American Portraits
National Portrait Gallery
PO Box 37012
Victor Building Suite 410, MRC 973
Washington, DC 20013-7012

Apply for a Smithsonian internship with the CAP >>