National Portrait Gallery
Interim Director: Kim Sajet
Total Full-time Employees: 65
Annual Budget (federal and trust) FY 2013: $9 million
Approximate Number of Artworks: 21,200
Visitors (2012): 1.069,9325
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 diverse story of America through its individuals.
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.” Today, the National Portrait Gallery’s mission is to inspire visitors from around the world by spotlighting the American experience through powerful images that connect people and their stories.
Collections and Exhibitions
The museum’s collection includes a wide range of paintings, sculpture, photographs drawings and new media. Prominent works include the following:
- “Lansdowne” portrait of George Washington a 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. 1846-1847)
- Frederick Douglass by an unknown artist, daguerreotype (c. 1856)
- Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Gardner (cracked-plate portrait), albumen silver print (1865)
- Mary Cassatt by Edgar Degas, oil on canvas (c. 1880-1884)
- Gertrude Stein by Jo Davidson, terra cotta (1922-1923)
- 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 are called “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. School children 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 or the new curator-led Three-Point Tour, scheduled monthly.
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 art by appointment.
The Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard
The Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard, designed by Foster + Partners, is a dynamic, year-round public gathering space enclosed by a curving glass roof. Foster + Partners was assisted by landscape designer Kathryn Gustafson of Seattle-based Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd. in the creation of the courtyard’s interior. 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
The Portrait Gallery’s National Historic Landmark building, praised by Walt Whitman as the “noblest of Washington buildings,” is considered one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the United States. The $283 million renovation (2000-2006) revealed the full magnificence of the building’s architectural features, including porticos modeled after the Parthenon in Athens, a curving double staircase, vaulted galleries, large windows and skylights as long as a city block. The museum shares its building and entrances with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Collectively, the two museums and their activities are known as the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.
About the Museum
The National Portrait Gallery is located at Eighth and F streets N.W. Metro: Gallery Place/Chinatown. Museum hours: 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25.) Free admission. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Website: npg.si.edu; Facebook facebook.com/npg.smithsonian; blog face2face.si.edu; Twitter twitter.com/npg; YouTube youtube.com/NatlPortraitGallery.
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