Presidents Day Weekend at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery
“Lansdowne” Portrait of George Washington Will Be On View Through Feb. 29
The National Portrait Gallery will celebrate President George Washington’s 284th birthday with events and activities for all ages. Presidents Day weekend is a great time to visit the museum’s iconic collection of presidential portraits and participate in special holiday-related activities.
The museum is counting down the days before Gilbert Stuart’s iconic “Lansdowne” portrait of Washington temporarily goes off view. The painting will be sent to a conservation lab for about 18 months starting Feb. 29.
The National Portrait Gallery acquired the Lansdowne portrait in 2001 through the generosity of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. Previously on loan to the museum, it was reinstalled when the renovated museum reopened in 2006. More than 1.2 million schoolchildren and visitors of all ages from across the country and around the world view the artwork annually, and it remains a treasure of the American people.
This artwork also serves as the centerpiece of the Portrait Gallery’s permanent exhibition “America’s Presidents.” Stuart, one of America’s most talented artists of the early national period, created the painting in 1796, during Washington’s second term in office. The Lansdowne portrait visually defines the image Washington sought for the new national government, especially the new office of the presidency. It symbolized that the president was not a king who gained power by inheritance but was elected by the people.
The painting’s conservation is being funded by Bank of America.
Also, the original copy of the “cracked-plate” photograph of President Abraham Lincoln, one of the most haunting portraits of any president, is currently on view at the museum’s exhibition “Dark Fields of the Republic: Alexander Gardner, 1859–1872.” Taken in February 1865, just weeks before Lincoln’s assassination in April, the original glass-plate negative cracked, and Gardner only made one print from the negative before discarding it. The rarely shown original will be on view through March 13.
Slow Looking at George Washington
Thursday, Feb. 4; noon
Many visitors have seen the Lansdowne portrait, but they can now join Beth Evans from the museum’s Education Department for an interactive closer look. Participants should meet on the second floor at the entrance to “America’s Presidents.”
Presidential Family Fun Day
Saturday, Feb. 13; 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.
Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard
Visitors and their families can celebrate American commanders-in-chief over Presidents Day weekend at the Family Fun Day. From calligraphy workshops to scavenger hunts, games, music and hands-on activities, there will be something for everyone.
Noon Linton Hall Fife and Drum Corps performance
12:30–2:30 p.m. Appearances by the Washington Nationals baseball team mascots
12:40 p.m. Lansdowne portrait spotlight
1 p.m. Linton Hall Fife and Drum Corps performance
1:30 p.m. Virginia Reel workshop
2 p.m. Meet Flora Fraser, author of The Washingtons: George and Martha: Crown’d by Friendship, Crown’d by Love
2:30 p.m. Virginia Reel workshop
- Take a scavenger hunt led by the Portrait Gallery’s Teen Museum Council
- Write love notes like George and Martha Washington—just in time for Valentine’s Day—in a calligraphy workshop
- Create and break codes, using codes that George Washington used during the Revolutionary War
- Dress and pose like George Washington in their own Lansdowne-inspired portrait
- Help make a large-scale recreation of the Lansdowne portrait
- Create their own tricorn hat
- Make a top hat in a workshop led by staff members from President Lincoln’s Cottage
National Portrait Gallery
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery 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 National Portrait Gallery is part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture at Eighth and F streets N.W., Washington, D.C. Smithsonian.
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