National Portrait Gallery
Director: Kim Sajet
Total Full-time Employees: 97
Annual Budget (federal and trust) FY 2016: $11 million
Approximate Number of Artworks: 22,800
Visitors (2016): 1.2 million
The National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of America by portraying the people who shape the nation’s history, development and culture.
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.”
Collections and Exhibitions
The museum’s collection includes a wide range of paintings, sculpture, photographs, drawings and media art. Prominent works include:
- “Lansdowne” portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, oil on canvas (1796) (under conservation through September 2017)
- 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 holds more than 1,600 portraits of the U.S. presidents; 5,450 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 athletes.
The museum offers a wide range of programming that includes free lectures, hands on programs, performances and films. The Portrait Gallery also presents teacher workshops, family days and guided tours for thousands of people each year.
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 was the first art conservation facility in the United States that allows the public permanent behind-the-scenes views of the preservation work undertaken by the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum. Conservation staff members are visible to the public through floor-to-ceiling glass walls.
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 area 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 Wi-Fi is available in the courtyard.
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 the museum at Facebook, Instagram, blog, Twitter and YouTube
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