Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery to Reopen May 14, 2021 with Newly Installed Works On View

By Editorial Team on May 3, 2021
Credit information: “Lorraine Hansberry” by David Attie, gelatin silver print, 1959. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. © David Attie

Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery to Reopen May 14, 2021

Every Eye Is Upon Me: First Ladies of the United States
On view through May 23, 2021
Second floor

“Every Eye Is Upon Me: First Ladies of the United States” is the first major exhibition to explore the historical significance of this prominent position through the mode of portraiture. The exhibition, organized in collaboration with the White House and the National First Ladies’ Library, spans nearly 250 years, from Martha Washington to Melania Trump, and features more than 65 portraits of the First Ladies or those who undertook the role of White House hostess, alongside related ephemera, including iconic dresses. Also on view is a projected montage of photographs of First Ladies by contemporary photographer Annie Leibovitz. On view through May 23, 2021, the exhibition is curated by Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw and is part of the Smithsonian American Women’s Initiative, “Because of Her Story.” A richly illustrated book entitled First Ladies of the United States, co-published by the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian Books, serves as a companion for the exhibition, along with the recent volume America’s Presidents (2017). An online version of the exhibition is accessible at firstladies.si.edu.

Reopening Exhibitions

Visionary: The Cumming Family Collection (Part II)
On view through Oct. 31, 2021
Second floor

Installed in two parts, “Visionary: The Cumming Family Collection” celebrates a major acquisition of 22 contemporary portraits recently gifted or promised to the Portrait Gallery by Ian and Annette Cumming. Part II features portraits by American artists Jack Beal, Chuck Close and Nelson Shanks, which were either commissioned or acquired by the Cummings during more than 25 years of collecting, in consultation with their friend D. Dodge Thompson. This second phase of the exhibition includes likenesses of prominent leaders Al Gore, President Barack Obama, and Edward O. Wilson. “Visionary: The Cumming Family Collection” is curated by Portrait Gallery Chief Curator Emerita Brandon Brame Fortune. Part I of the exhibition opened prior to the museum’s closure in late November 2020 and is no longer on view.

America’s Presidents
Ongoing
Second floor

The museum reopens its signature exhibition, “America’s Presidents,” with a newly acquired photograph of Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States. This portrait of President Trump is one of several photographs by the award-winning New York–based photographer Pari Dukovic while on assignment for Time magazine. Taken on June 17, 2019, the day before Trump officially announced he would seek reelection, this photograph shows him at the Resolute Desk, which has been in the White House almost continuously since 1880. The flags in the background, placed in the office during Trump’s presidency, reflect the five branches of the armed forces (left to right): Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. Also visible in the background (left) is Asher B. Durand’s  portrait of Andrew Jackson (1835), a figure whom President Trump alluded to frequently. On the right is a portrait of Benjamin Franklin (c. 1785) by Joseph Duplessis, on loan to the White House from the National Portrait Gallery. “America’s Presidents” features likenesses of every former U.S. president, beginning with George Washington. An online version of the exhibition is accessible at americaspresidents.si.edu.

Storied Women of the Civil War Era
On view through February 6, 2022
First floor

During the Civil War era, numerous women rose to national prominence—from First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln to the actress and Union spy Pauline Cushman. This intimate exhibition includes portraits of these and other intriguing women who captivated the public while becoming sought-after subjects for Mathew Brady’s camera. Ann Shumard, the National Portrait Gallery’s senior curator of photographs, is the curator of this exhibition.

Women of Progress: Early Camera Portraits
On view through June 13, 2021
First floor

In mid-nineteenth-century America, the growing presence of women in public life coincided with the rise of portrait photography. This exhibition of daguerreotypes and ambrotypes from the 1840s and 1850s features portraits of early feminists and women’s rights advocates Margaret Fuller and Lucy Stone, abolitionist Lucretia Mott, and best-selling author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Ann Shumard, the National Portrait Gallery’s senior curator of photographs, is the curator of this exhibition.

Recent Acquisitions: Gifts from the Corcoran Gallery of Art
Extended through Oct. 23, 2022
First floor

Portraits from the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s collection are featured in this exhibition of recent acquisitions. Following the Corcoran’s closure in 2014, the Portrait Gallery received 80 works from the country’s first private museum. This exhibition presents more than 20 donated works, including portraits of musician Louis Armstrong, publishing icon Katharine Graham and artist Frida Kahlo; presidents Chester Arthur and Zachary Taylor; and the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Joseph Henry. The lead curator for this exhibition is Portrait Gallery Chief Curator Emerita Brandon Brame Fortune.

Her Story: A Century of Women Writers
On view through Jan. 23, 2022
First floor

“Her Story: A Century of Women Writers” celebrates some of the country’s most influential authors. This permanent collection exhibition features portraits of 24 women, including Margaret Wise Brown, Sandra Cisneros, Lorraine Hansberry, Toni Morrison, Anne Sexton, Susan Sontag, Anne Tyler, and Alice Walker. Whether using their life experiences or powers of imagination, each of these writers has made a significant contribution to American literature. Several have won Pulitzer Prizes, Nobel Prizes, or both, and their personal stories—in addition to those they have written—offer insight and inspiration. This exhibition is part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, “Because of Her Story.” “Her Story: A Century of Women Writers” is curated by Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw.