National Portrait Gallery
Director: Kim Sajet
Total Full-time Employees: 84
Annual Budget (federal and trust) FY 2015: $9 million
Approximate Number of Artworks: 22,800
Visitors (2014): 1 million
The National Portrait Gallery is the only museum of its kind in the United States to reflect the connection between American history, biography and art. It tells the multifaceted story of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture.
Through the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story.
The museum was established by an act of Congress in 1962 and opened to the public in 1968. Its charter was to collect and display images of “men and women who have made significant contributions to the history, development and culture of the people of the United States.” The mission of the National Portrait Gallery is to tell the story of America by portraying the people who shape the nation's history, development and culture.
Collections and Exhibitions
The museum’s collection includes a wide range of paintings, sculpture, photographs, drawings and time-based media art. Prominent works include:
- “Lansdowne” portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, oil on canvas (1796)
- Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Duplessis (the image on the $100 bill), oil on canvas (c. 1785)
- John Brown by Augustus Washington, daguerreotype (c. 1846–47)
- Frederick Douglass by an unknown artist, ambrotype (1856)
- Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Gardner (“cracked-plate” portrait), albumen silver print (1865)
- Mary Cassatt by Edgar Degas, oil on canvas (c. 1880–84)
- Gertrude Stein by Jo Davidson, terra-cotta (1922–23)
- Charlie Chaplin by Edward Steichen, gelatin silver print (1925)
- Ethel Waters by Beauford Delaney, pastel on paper (1940)
- Beauford Delaney by Georgia O’Keeffe, pastel on paper (1943)
- John Coltrane by Roy DeCarava, gelatin silver print (1961)
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver by David Lenz, oil on canvas (2009)
- Colin Powell by Ron Sherr, oil on canvas (2012)
In addition, the Portrait Gallery’s collections hold more than 1,600 portraits of the U.S. presidents; 5,444 glass-plate negatives from the studios of Mathew Brady; and original artwork from 2,139 Time magazine covers. The museum has a vigorous schedule of special exhibitions that rotate throughout each year. Long-term permanent collection exhibitions include “America’s Presidents,” “American Origins,” “Twentieth-Century Americans” and “The Struggle for Justice”; a room titled “One Life” is dedicated to the biography of one person; and the third-floor mezzanines contain the exhibitions “Bravo!” which is devoted to those in the performing arts, and “Champions,” which focuses on great athletes.
The museum offers a wide range of programming that includes free lectures, performances and films. The Portrait Gallery also presents teacher workshops, family days and guided tours for thousands of people each year. Schoolchildren and educators are treated to interactive tours tailored to curricula; families and young artists can participate in hands-on programming with the monthly Portrait Stories or Be the Artist programs. Adults can learn more about the museum and its collections by attending a weekly highlights tour.
Catalog of American Portraits
The Catalog of American Portraits is a survey of American portraits in public and private collections across the United States and abroad. This archive maintains information and images for more than 200,000 portraits of American subjects or portraits by American artists. The catalog is available online via its Portrait Search feature. National Portrait Gallery collections are included in the database, as are portraits relating to the museum’s exhibitions.
Lunder Conservation Center
This is the first art conservation facility in the United States that allows the public permanent behind-the-scenes views of the National Portrait Gallery’s and Smithsonian American Art Museum’s preservation work. Conservation staff members are visible to the public through floor-to-ceiling glass walls. People may also learn more about conserving their own art by appointment.
The Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard
A signature element of the National Historic Landmark building shared by the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum is the Kogod Courtyard. Named for Washington philanthropists and art collectors Robert and Arlene Kogod, the enclosed courtyard features an elegant glass canopy designed by world-renowned architects at Foster + Partners in London that provides a distinctive, contemporary accent to the museums’ Greek Revival building. Free public wireless Internet access (Wi-Fi) is available in the courtyard. The Courtyard Café offers casual dining from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture
Named in honor of a generous gift from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture houses the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum—two museums that tell America’s stories through art, history and biography.
About the Museum
The National Portrait Gallery is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., Washington, D.C. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Website: npg.si.edu. Connect with us: @NPG on Twitter, @smithsoniannpg on Instagram, and npg.smithsonian on Facebook.
# # #