U.S. Presidential Portrait Gallery at the National Portrait Gallery

A view of the entrance of the "Portraits of the Presidents" gallery at the National Portrait Gallery

Since the U.S. Presidential inauguration is upon us, I thought it would be a good time to whip out my photo set of images from the “Portraits of the Presidents” gallery at the Smithsonian in DC.

Some notable observations from my trip there last April:

  • George Washington has the most portraits (1, 2, 3, 4),
  • John Adams has one of the most stiff (it was by John Trumbull),
  • Grover Cleveland’s by Anders Zorn is my favorite,
  • Ulysses S. Grant” by Mathew Brady (1864) is pretty damn poignant and sensitive though it clocks in as the smallest,
  • John Quincy Adams” by George Caleb Bingham (c. 1850, from an 1844 original) is his dad’s only real competition for dullest portrait in the gallery (what’s up with the Adam’s family taste in portraits?),
  • Elaine de Kooning’s JFK is quite nice but a little out of place,
  • I had no idea Norman Rockwell painted Richard Nixon (somehow very fitting), and
  • Clinton’s portrait is the most obnoxious–though to be fair, I hear he also has a much smaller and better one by Chuck Close that isn’t always on view.

Eleanor Roosevelt meets her post-modern doppelganger on a "Fuck Yoga" label t-shirt

Most random fact: As we were walking around the gallery, one of the security guards pointed at Veken’s tshirt and said loudly, “That’s Eleanor Roosevelt.” And then started laughing at his Fuck Yoga tshirt (a now defunct NY tshirt brand). So, I felt obligated to take a photo of the tshirt and the portrait of Eleanor together.

UPDATE: I spoke too soon, our favorite midwestern art blogger, Paul Schmelzer, has discovered that fuck yoga is still available online!

8 responses to “U.S. Presidential Portrait Gallery at the National Portrait Gallery”

  1. I still have a little scrap of paper from our Bushwick days that says “Yoga Kills.” But I don’t think Eleanor said that one…

  2. They were there (except for Bush II who was just added) but their portraits weren’t really noteworthy so I didn’t snap a photo. There were others to I just walked by.

  3. Size really does matter for the Portraits of the Presidents exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. If you are a Democrat president like, say, Clinton, Carter, or Kennedy, then you are fortunate to have an oversized portrait that is floor to ceiling and hung on its very own wall. But if you are a Republican president, like, say Bush, Reagan, or Nixon, then you unfortunately have, at most, a standard sized portrait that likely shares wall space with another president. See for yourself at http://mmxflex.blogspot.com/2010/02/national-portr ait-gallery-size-matters_08.html.

    • The artists you cite in the post and choose only to see through your ideology worked in that scale from the get go. Republican’s chose portrait artists who worked in a generic cookie-cutter size, the biggest exception for the GOP is Norman Rockwell (Nixon’s portrait artist) who worked small because he was an illustrator, not really a fine artist … that’s the way he does things. In contrast, Elaine de Kooning (JFK’s artist) always worked big.

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