Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Visit to the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gentle Friends, one of the places I really wanted to get to was The National Portrait Gallery.  For as far back as I can remember I've enjoyed portraiture.  Being able to look at a painting of a "real" person and think about "what are they trying to say about themselves" or "what did they want to say to the future?"  because that's what a portrait is - a note or memo from the past to those in the future.   In Washington, we are lucky in that the Smithsonian American Art Museum shares the same building as the National Portrait Gallery -  you get two very different collections under one roof!

... and that building is the Old Patent Office Building that was repurposed and renovated in 1969 to become the permanent home for the Museum.  Here are a bunch of snaps of paintings from both Museums that I really enjoyed seeing!!

"Spanish Dancer" ca. 1879-82 - O/C- John Singer Sargent

"Compass Rose Quilt" - 2nd Half 19th century - Cotton - Lydia and Betsy Morphew

Gentleman and Lady of Squire Williams House - O/C ca. 1829 - Erastus Salisbury Field

"Cathedral Rocks, Yosemite Valley" - O/P - ca. 1872 - Albert Bierstadt

"Gates of the Yosemite" - O/P - ca. 1882 - Albert Bierstadt

"Peaceable Kingdom" - O/C - 1848-49 - Edward Hicks - This is one of sixty versions of Peaceable Kingdom that Hicks painted throughout his career.

"Along the Hudson" - O/C - 1852 - John Frederick Kensett - the Hudson River School is one of my favorite 19th landscape movements!!
I came around a corner and on the wall of a large stair-well was this group of First Nation portraits.  They are all really good size and very impressive!!!

All these paintings are O/C painted in the 1830's by George Catlin - top row from left to right - H'co-a-h'co-a-h'cotes-min, No Horns on his Head, a brave Nez Perce, 1832, Meach-o-shin-gaw, Little White Bear, a Distinguished Brave Kansas/Kaw, 1832, Haw-che-ke-sug-ga, He Who Kills the Osages, Cheif of the Tribe Missoura/Jiwere-Nutachi, 1832, Tis-se-woo-na-tis, She Who Bathes Her Knees, Wife of the Cheif Cheyenne/Suhtai, 1832, Nah-se-us-kuk, Whirling Thunder, Eldest Son of Black hawk, Sac and Fox, 1832, Stan-au-pat, Bloody Hand, Cheif of the Tribe Arikara/Sahnish, 1832

Middle row, left to right: Ha-na-ta-nu-mauk, Wolf Chief Head of the Tribe Mandan/Numakiki, 1832, Ah-mou-a, The Whale, One of Kee-okuk's Principle Braves, Sac and Fox, 1835, Ah-kay-ee-pix-en, Woman Who Strikes many, Blackfoot/Siksika, 1832, Two Young Men, Menominee, 1835 or 1836, Tsee-mount, Great Wonder, Carrying her Baby in Her Robe, Plains Cree, 1832, Wan-ee-ton, Cheif of the Tribe, Yanktonai Nakota, 1832

Bottom row, left to right: Kota-a-to-ah, Smoked Shield, a Distinguished Warrior, Kiowa, 1834, Not-to-way, a Cheif, Iroquois/Haudensaunee, 1835-36, No-way-ke-sug-gah, He Who Strikes Two at Once, a Brave, Otoe/Jiwere-Nutachi, 1832, Cler-mont, First Cheif of the Tribe, Osage/Wa-zha-zhe I-e, 1834, Wife of Kee-o-kuk, Sac and Fox, 1835, Om-pah-ton-ga, Big Elk, a Famous Warrior, Omaha, 1832

"Between 1830 and 1836, George Catlin made five expeditions to the Nation's frontiers to record what he saw as the vanishing cultures of Native American tribes.  Catlin's grand quest took him two thousand miles up the Missouri River and as far west a Blackfoot and Crow country in present-day North Dakota.  He wanted European Americans to understand the Indians not as savages, but as complex human beings.  Catlin portrayed the leaders of the Sioux, Assiniboine, and Seminoles as great men, each with his unique personality.

In 1838, his Indian Gallery in Washington DC promised "Three hundred & Thirty Portraits & Numerous Other Paintings."  Catlin staked his career on the exhibition but found Congress uninterested in purchasing the works.  After tours to Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, the artist took his gallery of paintings to London and the Continent." 


"Among the Sierra Nevada, California" - O/C - 1868 - Albert Bierstadt

"Seal Rocks, San Francisco" - O/C - 1872 - Albert Bierstadt - I've seen these rocks numerous times and never have I seen them so dramatic and stormy!!  More like this vintage post card......


... and now back to Mt Vernon.....

"Visit of the Prince of Wales, President Buchanan, and Dignitaries to the Tomb of Washington at Mount Vernon" - O/C - 1861- Thomas P. Rossiter..... painted to commemorate the Prince of Wales' visit in 1860

"Sioux Dog Feast" - O/C - 1832-37- George Catlin

"Catlin participated in a Sioux Indian ceremony of friendship at which a meal of dog meat was the center of the festivities.  He explained the significance of this meal in his journal: ' This feast was unquestioningly given to us as the most undoubted evidence they could give of their friendship.  Knowing the spirit in which it was given, we could not but treat it respectfully, and receive it as anything but a high and marked compliment.  The dog feast is truly a religious ceremony.  The Indian sees fit to sacrifice his faithful companion to bear testimony to the sacredness of his vows of friendship.'  Catlin's interest in tribal customs marks him as an unusually sensitive observer at a time when many considered native Americans to be savages."

"Sha-co-pay, The Six, Chief of the Plains Ojibwa" - Plains Ojibwe/Chippewa - O/C - George Catlin - 1932

" Stu-mick-o-sucks, Buffalo Bull's Back Fat" - O/C - Head Chief - Blackfoot/Kainai 
George Catlin - 1832

"Mrs. George Watson (Elizabeth Oliver)" - O/C - John Singleton Copley - 1765

"Elizabeth Oliver Watson, the second wife of a wealthy Plymouth merchant, was twenty-eight when she posed for this portrait.  The daughter of the colony's chief justice, she wears a fashionable gown of satin and lace and holds a porcelain vase that echoes the contours of her figure.  The vase was imported from Asia, the tulips cultivated in Holland, and her dress based on the latest fashion in London, all of which testified to her husband's success as an importer of fine goods.  Mrs. Watson showed herself to colonial society as a fashionable English matron, but her direct gaze suggests the grit and character of a new American society that would emerge within ten years."

"Nuestra Senora de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows) - Pine/Aspen wood, gesso, natural pigments and dyes, pinon sap and gold leaf - Feliz Lopez - 1998

"Russell Means 1939-2012 Born Pine Ridge, South Dakota" - Acrylic/Silkscreen on Canvas 
Andy Warhol - 1977

"Franklin D Roosevelt 1882-1945" - O/C - Douglas Chandor - 1945

"Dolley Madison 1768 - 1849 Born near Guilford, NC" - O/C - William S Elwell

" Wiliam Elwell painted Dolley Madison's portrait in February 1848 and later sold it to her longtime friend William Winston Seaton, editor and co-owner of the Washington, D.C. newspaper The National Intelligencer.  The portrait offers a glimpse of the aging Mrs. Madison, described by the artist in his diary as 'a very Estimable lady - kind & obliging - one of the Old School.' "

"Ulysses S. Grant 1822 - 1885" - O/C - Thomas LeClear ca. 1880

Walking into the American art section I came up against this monumental piece...... and knew that a still snap would not get across the piece so I took a short video...


"Frida Kahlo" (1907-54) - O/C - Magda Pach (1884 - 1950) - 1933

"Juliette Gordon Low" (1860-1927) - O/C -  Edward Hughes (1832 - 1908) -1887

"Tallulah Bankhead" (1902 - 1968) - O/C - Agustus John (1878 - 1961) 1930

"George Gershwin" (1898 - 1937) - O/C - Arthur Kaufman (1888 - 1971) - 1936

"Lena Horne" (1917 - 2010) - O/C - Edward Biberman (1904 - 86) - 1947

"Ethel Merman dressed for the title role in Annie Get Your Gun" (1909 - 84) - OA/C 
Rosemarie Sloat (b. 1925) - 1971

"Leontyne Price" (b. 1927) - O/C - Bradley Phillips (1929-1991) 1963

"Marilyn Horne" (b. 1934) - O/C - John Foote (b. 1929) - 1971

That's about it for today sports fans, thanks for stopping by do stop again!!

Take Care,


  1. Beautiful place. Thanks for the tour ♥

  2. Fantastic tour! Thank you, Edgar.

  3. Beautiful paintings! I am more drawn to the landscapes. I would think it would be more difficult to paint a person though. It has been a wonderful trip and I thank you for that.

  4. You really saw some wonderful paintings. The George Catlin pictures captured so well the dignity of the natives.

  5. Great pictures! You should be a tour guide as you plan the best trips. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Jotting down what I will definitely visit if I go to DC again!Thanks for sharing!AriadnefromGreece!

  7. Lovely post! My husband loves the Hudson River School too!