George Washington, A National Treasure
The Portrait Townhall Kids Washington's Life Exhibition Calendar

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Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery Fact Sheet

Director: Marc Pachter
Number of objects in the museum's collection: 18,600
Number of visitors in 1999: 432,000
(The Patent Office Building, which houses the National Portrait Gallery, closed in January 2000 for renovation)

History and Overview
The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery was established by an Act of Congress in 1962 and was opened to the public in 1968. The Portrait Gallery's mission is 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." It is the only museum of its kind in the United States to combine the aspects of American history, biography and art. The museum's collection includes 18,600 works ranging from paintings and sculpture to photographs and drawings. The Portrait Gallery is housed in the historic Old Patent Office Building at Eighth and F Streets N.W., in Washington, D.C.
Some of the prominent works in the National Portrait Gallery's collection include:
  • "Lansdowne" portrait of George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart
  • Benjamin Franklin, by Joseph Duplessis (featured on the new $100 bill)
  • Mary Cassatt, by Edgar Degas
  • Abraham Lincoln, by Alexander Gardner
  • Grant & His Generals, by Ole Peter Hansen Balling
  • Michael Jackson, by Andy Warhol
  • Charlie Chaplin, by Edward Steichen
  • Gertrude Stein, by Jo Davidson
  • John Singleton Copley, self-portrait
Additionally, the National Portrait Gallery's collection includes official portraits of all U.S. presidents, more than 5,400 glass-plate negatives from the studios of Mathew Brady, and original artwork from more than 1,900 TIME magazine covers. Many of these works may be viewed on the Portrait Gallery's Web site:
Museum Renovation
Since January 2000, the Patent Office Building, which the National Portrait Gallery shares with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, has been closed to the public while it undergoes major renovation. The $216 million renovation project is the first for the Patent Office Building in more than 30 years. Plans include the replacement of heating, air-conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems, as well as extensive masonry work on the building's exterior. Approximately 60,000 square feet of new gallery and public space will be available when the Patent Office Building re-opens because the library and staffs of both museums have moved to the Victor Building, located at Ninth and H Streets N.W.
George Washington: A National Treasure
In Spring 2001, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery rescued its most treasured image, on long-term loan, from potential auction-the "Lansdowne" portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. When the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation of Las Vegas, Nevada stepped in with a generous $30 million gift, the Gallery was able to save the work for future generations of Americans, restore a dedicated space in the Patent Office Building, and give the public the opportunity to see the painting-the most important visual document from the founding of the nation-on its first ever national tour.
“George Washington: A National Treasure” will rekindle the public's interest in the founding father of our country through this quintessential American image. Through educational interactives, video, films, family days, and brochures, this special exhibition allows the public to reflect on Washington's leadership, heroism, and self-sacrifice, how he defined the role of the presidency, and highlights from the remarkable stories of his life, career, and times.
Portrait of a Nation
While the National Portrait Gallery is closed for renovation, some 1,000 portraits from its collection are traveling to museums and institutions across the United States and also Europe and Japan. The "Portrait of a Nation" initiative has four major exhibitions drawn from the gallery's permanent collection including:
  • "Portraits of the Presidents from the National Portrait Gallery"
  • "A Brush with History: Paintings from the National Portrait Gallery"
  • "Women of Our Time: Photographs from the National Portrait Gallery"
  • "Eye Contact: Modern American Portrait Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery"
Online exhibitions, itineraries and additional information on the "Portrait of a Nation" tour may be found on the gallery's Web site at
NPG Around Town
The "NPG Around Town" initiative was created by the museum to build its community partnerships throughout Washington, D.C. Partners act as the host for the rich variety of Portrait Gallery education and public programs during the renovation. The programs, hosted at neighborhood organizations and venues in the city, range from biographical performances, lectures and concerts to mentorship programs, after-school activities, and family days. All programs are available free of charge. For more information, the public may call (202) 357-2700.


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