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The National Portrait Gallery officially debuted in 1968 to great fanfare with the lofty goal of memorializing the history, development and culture of the United States through the lives of men and women who made significant contributions. Many of those people are well-known, and we will take a fresh look at some of them. But we will also delve into the lives and deeds of people whose names are not as well known who but whose contributions were pivotal as the new nation matured. Among others, you will meet Ira Aldridge, the African-American Shakespearean actor who was a favorite of European kings and Tsars, and Joseph Henry, the first Secretary of the Smithsonian whose scientific experimentation was foundational to Samuel F.B. Morse invention of the telegraph.
Early American portraits are traditionally in the art mediums of painting, drawing and sculpture. However, time and technology have transformed the genre to include photographs, prints, posters, caricatures, film, video, various digital images, natural phenomena, landscape, collage, and more. In addition to examining the traditional techniques that artists use to tell us about their lives and times of their subjects, we will also explore non-traditional works in which the artists challenge us to look beyond the image or the face into the essence of the subject.
- Meet your Smithsonian Associates Rep by the Information Desk, no later than listed start time.
- While there is metered street parking and several parking lots and garages near the museum, space is limited, your best bet is using METRO.
National Portrait Gallery
8th & G Sts NW, Washington, DC 20004
Metro: Gallery Place/Chinatown