The National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery is a world-renowned art museum in the heart of Washington, D.C. Founded in 1962 by Congress and opened to the public in 1968, the National Portrait Gallery is part of the Smithsonian Institution and is housed in the historic Old Patent Office Building alongside the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The National Portrait Gallery features a highly acclaimed collection of portraiture that focuses on images of famous Americans, ranging from artists, activists, and performers to politicians and scientists. Photo: The National Portrait Gallery

»History & Mission

History & Mission

The mission of the National Portrait Gallery is to document the history and heritage of America by portraying people of remarkable character and achievement that have made significant contributions and shaped the nation’s culture, development, and future. The Gallery showcases an outstanding collection of portraits of inspiring people to help visitors take a deeper look at their own lives and how to aspire to betterment. Photo: The National Portrait Gallery

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The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery’s collection narrates the multi-faceted and ever-evolving story of America through the extraordinary individuals who have shaped its culture and heritage. The collection, which is comprised of over 22,000 items across all forms of media, represents actors and activists, visionaries and villains, poets and presidents, all of whom contributed to the national identity of the United States.

The ‘America's Presidents’ exhibition rests at the heart of the Portrait Gallery and is the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House. The collection features paintings, photographs, sculpture, caricatures, video, and time-based media, including ‘Lansdowne’ by Gilbert Stuart – an exquisite portrait of George Washington.

Highlights of the collection include an extensive collection of cover art from Time magazine, and ‘One Life: The Mask of Lincoln,’ which takes an in-depth look at Abraham Lincoln and his elusive, mysterious character. Photo: The National Portrait Gallery

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The National Portrait Gallery offers an array of educational programs and activities for teachers, teens, and families. Programs for teachers and educators include interactive teacher workshops, student groups, and classroom resources, while programs for teens include Image=Image Teen Workshops, Teen Portrait Competitions, and the Teen Museum Council. The Teen Museum Council is an intensive year-long program for teenagers from the area who are interested learning about in leadership through portraiture, history, and art.

Youth and family programs allow visitors to have an interactive gallery experience by informing, involving and inspiring, as well as offering opportunities to create original works of art. Programs include Girl Scout Programs for Girl Scout Brownies, Juniors, and Cadette troops, Young Portrait Explorers, hands-on, informative and fun-filled Family Days, Portrait Discovery Kits, Portrait Story Days, and Open Studio Fridays. Photo: The National Portrait Gallery

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»Visitor Information

Visitor Information

The National Portrait Gallery is located in the Victor Building at 750 Ninth Street NW in Washington, D.C. and is open from 11:30 am until 7:00 pm daily. Visitors can enjoy free docent-led tours which introduce visitors to the works exhibited in the Museum and offer insights into the portraits and the artists who created them, including tours of the permanent and temporary collections, the ‘America’s Presidents’ and other highlights of the National Portrait Gallery.

The spectacular glass-ceilinged Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard is a light-filled sanctuary in which visitors can relax, have something to eat and drink and enjoy performances during Museum hours and in the evenings. Designed by London–based architects Foster + Partners, the roof of the Kogod Courtyard is an undulating glass–and–steel structure that appears to ‘float’ over the courtyard, flooding the space with natural light, while protecting people in the courtyard below from the elements. Eight aluminum–clad columns with double–glazed glass panels are situated around the perimeter of the yard support the weight of the roof. The courtyard is also the base for an array of activities, including children's activities, art–making programs, concerts, and performances.

The National Portrait Gallery’s Courtyard Café serves a full meal for hungry museum-goers or casual snacks and coffee for those on the go. The Café offers a fresh and seasonal menu of Mediterranean-inspired dishes, prepared from locally sourced organic ingredients, ranging from salads and soups to sandwiches and quiche, as well as sweet desserts. Diners can relax beneath the beautiful glass canopy of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard surrounded by lush tropical plants and natural sunlight. Lunch boxes for small groups can be pre-arranged boxed lunches and the Café caters for children’s birthday parties and cheese and wine receptions.

Back to: Things to Do in Washington, D.C. Address: Victor Building, 750 Ninth Street NW, Suite 410, Washington, D.C. 20001, Phone: 202-633-8300 Photo: The National Portrait Gallery

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Washington, D.C. Attractions: National Portrait Gallery