Kate Clarke Lemay

Woman with curly hair in a blue dress
Kate Clarke Lemay

Acting Senior Historian

Kate Clarke Lemay joined the National Portrait Gallery as a historian in 2015. She is a Fulbright Scholar; a Presidential Counselor to the National WWII Museum; and the founding director of PORTAL, the Portrait Gallery’s scholarly center. Lemay also served as the founding coordinating curator for the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

In 2019, Lemay curated “Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence” to usher in the centennial of the U.S. American women’s suffrage anniversary. Accompanying this exhibition, she published its eponymous catalogue with Princeton University Press in 2019, which was awarded the 2021 Smithsonian Secretary’s Prize for Excellence in Research as well as the 2020 Amelia Bloomer Book Award from the American Library Association.

In 2017, Lemay’s first book Triumph of the Dead: American WWII Cemeteries, Monuments and Diplomacy in France was awarded the Terra Foundation in American Art publication grant. In 2018, she served as guest editor for a special issue on transatlantic diplomacy and war cemeteries for The International Journal of Military History and Historiography. She has published essays on the intersections of art history and military history for the University of North Texas Press, Oxford University Press, The Strategy Bridge, Zócalo Public Square, Reviews in American History, and the Marine Corps University PressIn addition to her Fulbright, Lemay’s research has been supported by a Terra Foundation in American Art predoctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, a fellowship in American Modernism at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center, and a fellowship from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique at the Caen Mémorial Museum in France.

Lemay served as the lead historian for the transformation of the museum’s landmark exhibition “America’s Presidents” (2017). Her other exhibitions include “Marlene Dietrich: Dressed for the Image” (2017) and currently she is working on “1898: U.S. Imperial Visions and Revisions” (2023).

Before joining the National Portrait Gallery, Lemay held the positions of assistant professor of art history at Auburn University Montgomery and visiting assistant professor of the history of modern and contemporary art at Brigham Young University. She earned a dual PhD in American art history and American studies from Indiana University (Bloomington), where she completed an MA in art history. She holds a BA in French and art history from Syracuse University, from where she graduated with the Award of Excellence in French, magna cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa.