Thursday, July 6, 2017


Washington, D.C., is a great city for walking, and our typical day included driving in from our hotel in Alexandria, parking our car in a centrally located lot, and walking, walking, walking, walking.

On Day Two, we walked down F Street, noting all the attractions along the way that we might want to visit on another trip, such as the International Spy Museum. However, the museum's neighbor, the Shake Shack, required much closer inspection and caused about a 20 minute delay in our morning. It was well worth it:

Just down the road are The Smithsonian American Art Museum (commonly known as SAAM) and the National Portrait Gallery, which is also a Smithsonian museum. The museums share space in the Old Patent Office Building. Collectively they are known as the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, although I don't think anyone really calls them that. The building takes up two city blocks, and while they really are two different museums, we experienced them as a single museum.

A dramatic sculpture on the outside is always a good sign that you've arrived at an art museum. This one, Modern Head (1989-1990) by Roy Lichtenstein, is the perfect piece to stand outside a portrait gallery. It is an impressive thirty-one feet tall and is made of steel:

Entry to the museums is free, and we were lucky to be there on a day that wasn't wall-to-wall people. The SAAM has over 7,000 pieces of art and we had limited time.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Cape Cod Morning by Edward Hopper, 1950

Grandma Moses Goes to the Big City
by Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson), 1946

Can Fire in the Park by Beauford Delaney, 1946

Young Pastry Cook
by William H. Johnson, c. 1928-30

The Knockdown by Mahonri Young, 1931

Three Acrobats on a Unicycle
by Chaim Gross (1957)

Artists on WPA by Moses Soyer, 1935

From the Folk and Self-Taught Art Exhibit: 

Untitled-Caparena Figure by Clarence 
and Grace Woolsey, c. 1961-72
[made of bottlecaps]

Various untitled works by Albert Zahn, c. 1924-1950

Healing Machine by Emery Blagdon, c. 1950s-1986

The Throne by James Hampton

A few words about the next one. The artist, an architectural draftsman, created an extensive series of Utopian buildings that represented people in his life. This one represents his mother's spiritual attributes: strength, beauty, and spiritual perfection:
The Kathedral--Mother Symbolically
Achilles G. Rizzoli, 1935

Crucifixion by William Edmondson, c. 1932-1937

The Way We Was
by Herbert Singleton, 1990

The Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle
byThornton Dial, Sr., 2003

Ryder's House by Edward Hopper, 1958

Most of our time was spent in the National Portrait Gallery. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this part of the museum. So many of the iconic portraits that have been used in history textbooks and other places have their home here. See how many you recognize!

There were a lot of portraits of early colonists, Founding Fathers/Mothers, and VIP political figures:

Pocahontas (c. 1596-1617), a Native American who
converted to Christianity and married John Rolfe.
Portrait by an unidentified artist after 1616.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Colonial statesman.
Portrait by Joseph Siffred Duplessis, c. 1785. 
[Note: This painting of Franklin was 
selected for the engraving on the 
redesigned $100 bill.]

Washington Resigning His Commission
by Ferdinand Pettrich, c. 1841

Thomas Paine (1737-1809), Colonial political activist.
Portrait  by Laurent Dabos, c. 1792.

The Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834),
French aristocrat and military officer 
who joined the colonists to fight in 
the Revolutionary War.  
Unknown artist, c. 1786.
Side view

Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804), American
 Founding Father and first Secretary of the 
Treasury. Portrait by John Trumball, 1806.

Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the U.S.,
by Ralph E.W. Earl, 1836-37
[Jackson selected the plan, archtiects, and
site for the new Patent Office Building, in
which this portrait now hangs.]

President Andrew Jackson by Hiram
Powers, modeled 1835.
[I love the Greek toga.]

Sequoyah (1767-1843), Cherokee who created a system
of writing, making the Cherokee Nation the most 
literate Native American tribe in the 19th century. 
This portraits is a copy of a 1830 painting by Charles
Bird King that was destroyed in a fire that swept 
through the Smithsonian in 1865.

We enjoyed a Babe Ruth exhibit, which got its own room in the museum:
Babe Ruth batting in Dugdale Park, Seattle on Oct. 19, 1924
[The Babe hit three home-runs that day, and the first was
the longest drive hit in Seattle up to that date.]

New York Daily News, Aug. 17, 1948

Baseball autographed by Babe Ruth in 1926
and a bat he used in 1920

There were quite a few portraits of authors, one of the things I liked best about the Portrait Museum:
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), author of The 
Scarlet Letter, The House of Seven Gables, etc.
Portrait by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, 1862.

Noah Webster (1758-1843), creator of the first
American dictionary, which was published in 1828. 
Portrait by James Herring, 1833

Washington Irving (1783-1859), the
author of "Rip Van Winkle" and "The
Legend of Sleepy Hollow."
Bust by Edward Ball Hughes,1836.

Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849), America's first horror 
writer. Portrait by Samuel Stillman Osgood, 1845.
[Doesn't this look a trifle TOO jolly for Poe?]

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), author of 
Uncle Tom's Cabin. Portrait by Alanson Fisher, 1853.

Frederick Douglass (c. 1818-1895), escaped slave,
abolitionist, and author. Unidentified artist, c. 1844

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), the poet
who gave us "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," 
"The Song of Hiawatha," and "Paul Revere's Ride." 
Portrait by Thomas Buchanan Read, 1869.

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), author
Little Women and many other books. 
Bronze bust by Frank Edwin Elwell, 1891.

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), poet and
abolitionist.  Portrait by Robert Peckham, 1833.

William Dean Howells (1837-1920), friend of Mark Twain 
and author of The Rise of Silas Lapham. Shown here 
reading to his daughter Mildred. 
Bronze relief by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 1898.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892),  poet, author of "Leaves
of Grass."  Portrait by John White Alexander, 1889.

Bret Harte (1836-1902), author of stories
and essays about the American West. 
Portrait by John Pettie, 1884

Henry James (1843-1916), author of Portrait
of a Lady, The Ambassadors
, and more.
Portrait by Jacques-Emile Blanche.

Edith Wharton (1862-1937), shown here as
young girl from a wealthy family, but later 
known for writing The Age of Innocence, 
Ethan Frome, and other novels. 
Portrait by Edward Harrison May, 1870.

Samuel Clemens (1835-1910), aka Mark Twain, 
famous for his books Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry 
Finn, among others. Portrait by John White 
Alexander, 1912 or 1913.

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940),
author of The Great Gatsby, This
Side of Paradise,
 and other novels.
Portrait by David Silvette, 1935.

Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945), author
of Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy.
Portrait by Henry Varnum Poor, 1933

e. e. cummings (1894-1962), poet known
for defying rules of punctuation,
capitalization, and arrangement of words
on the page. Self-portrait, 1958.
[I had no idea he had studied art in Paris!]

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967), writer who
won two Pulitzer Prizes for his poetry and
one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln.
Portrait by William A. Smith, 1961

Marianne Moore (1887-1972), Pulitzer
Prize-winning poet. Portrait by
Marguerite Zorach, 1925.

Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989), author
of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the King's
called by some the most significant book
in American literature. He was also named Poet
Laureate of the U.S. TWICE.
Portrait by Conrad A. Albrizio, 1933

There were several portraits of artists that caught my attention:

John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), American painter.
Self-portrait, 1780-1784.

Edward Hicks (1780-1849), painter and Quaker minister.
Portrait by Edward's cousin Thomas Hicks (c. 1838).

James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903),
a painter most famous for his portrait 
of his mother. Sculpture by
Joseph Edgar Boehm, 1872.

John James Audobon, Self Portrait (1785-1851),
naturalist and artist. Self-portrait, 1822-23.

Alexander Calder (1898-1976), artist known
especially for his wire sculptures.
Self-portrait, 1925

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), portrait artist.
Portrait by Magda Pach, 1943.

There were explorers and naturalists:

Daniel Boone (1734-1820), American frontiersman.
Portrait by Chester Harding, 1820.

Davy Crockett (1786-1836), trapper and frontiersman.
Portrait by Chester Harding, 1884.

John Wesley Powell (1834-1902),
explorer of the American West. 
Portrait painted by Edmund Messer, 1889.

John Muir (1838-1914), naturalist and author.
Portrait painted by Orlando Rouland, c. 1919.

Industrialists, businessmen, and fortune-makers probably had their portraits painted more that most Americans:
Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877), American
businessman who unified America's 
fragmented transportation system.
Portrait by Nathaniel Jocelyn, 1846.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), American
industrialist and philanthropist. 
Portrait by an unidentified artist, c. 1905.

Not a very flattering portrait of American
industrialist John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937)
by Paul Manship, 1918.
The profile view is even less flatterirng.

Inventors and scientists are included:
Alexander Graham Bell (1947-1922), inventor of the
telephone. Portrait by Moses Wainer Dykaar, 1922.
[Very interesting hairdo.]

Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931), inventor.
Portrait by Abraham Archibald Anderson, 1890.
Thomas Edison's tin-foil phonograph, patented in 1878.
I think it's the same gizmo depicted in the painting of Edison above.

Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974),
Aviator, first to fly alone across
the Atlantic Ocean.
Bust by Jo Davidson, 1939.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955), theoretical
physicist who developed the Theory of
Relativity. Portrat by Max Westfield, 1944

I'm glad the curators chose to include important religious figures: 
Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910),
founder of the Christian Science faith.
Bust by Luella Varney Serrao, 1889.

It was fun to see the next two paintings hanging side-by-side in a hallway:
Joseph Smith (1805-1844), who founded the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830. Portrait by
Adrian Lamb in 1971 after an unidentified artist.

Brigham Young (1801-1877), Prophet and
President of the LDS Church following 
Joseph Smith; leader of the Mormon 
migration to Utah. Engraving 
by Augustin Francois Lemaitre, c. 1855

I like the portraits of women's rights advocates and social activists:
Lucretia Mott (1793-1880), Quaker, abolitionist,
and women's civil rights advocate. 
Portrait by Joseph Kyle, 1842.

Margaret Fuller (1810-1850), Transcendentalist,
intellectual. Portrait by Thomas Hicks, 1848.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902),
feminist, women's rights advocate. 
Portrait by Anna Elizabeth Klumpke, 1889.

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), reformer
and advocate for women's suffrage. 
Portrait by Adelaide Johnson, 1892.

Jane Addams (1860-1935), social
activist for the poor. Portrait by
George de Forest Brush, 1906

There are quite a few portraits of Civil War figures:

Booker T. Washington (1956-1915), African-American
reformer and educator. 
Bronze bust by Richmond Barthe, 1946.

Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858), senator
from Missouri and influential political figure. 
Portrait by Thomas Lee Boyle, c. 1861.

John Brown (1800-1859), abolitionist. Portrait by 
Ole Peter Hansen Balling, 1872.  [Don't you 
just love his wild hair and crazed expression?]

Daniel Webster (1782-1852),
New England politician and opposer of states' rights. 
Portrait by Francis Alexander, 1835.

Stephen A. Douglas (1813-1861), Illinois senator
 who was Lincoln's opponent in the 
Presidential election of 1860. 
Portrait by Duncan Styles, 1860.

Robert E. Lee (1807-1870), Confederate general.
Portrait by Edward Caledon Bruce, c. 1864-1865,

The Council of War. Grant lays out his plans as observed by President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Plaster statue by John Rogers, 1873 after the 1868 original.

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), suffragette and
author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
Portrait begun c. 1910 by John Elliot,
finished c. 1925 by William H. Cotton

Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), General of all the
Union armies and future President of the U.S.
Portrait by Ole Peter Hansen Balling, 1865.

There was a significant amount of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia:

Momento Mori, Abraham Lincoln by an
unidentified artist, 1865

Emancipation Proclamation. 
Lithograph by Gilman R. Russell, 1865.

A satirical sketch of The Emancipation Proclamation shows
Lincoln in league with the devil as he drafts the document.
There is also a portrait of radical exremist John Brown on the wall.
Lithograph by Adalbert John Volck, c. 1864-65.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th American
President. Portrait by Charles Wesley Jarvis, 1861.

Abraham Lincoln by Augustus Saint-
Gaudens, modeled 1887, cast c. 1923
[Compare this tired Lincoln with
the more youthful portrait above.]

The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation Before
the Cabinet
. Lithograph by Alexander Hay Ritchie, 1866.

There were a few random portraits of contemporary figures that stood out for me:

Rosalyn Carter (1927--), wife of President Jimmy
Carter. Pastel by Robert Templeton, 1977.

Fred Rogers (1928-2003), Children's television
personality. Photograph by Nathan Benn, 1990.

At this point we moved out of the Portrait Gallery and back into the American Art Museum.

Preamble, license plates on vinyl and wood by Mike Wilkins, 1959.

Achelous and Hercules by Thomas Hart Benton, 1947.

Wheat by Thomas Hart Benton, 1967

The Bronco Buster by Frederic Remington,
modeled 1895, cast 1910

Shapes of Fear by Maynard Dixon, 1956

Jungle Palm by Leo Amino, 1954; Flag Waving
 by George Rickey, 1954; The Hyades
by Ibram Lassaw, 1951

Girl Skating by Abastenia St. Leger Eberle (1907)

I love Abbott Handerson Thayer, who lived from 1841-1929. Some see his paintings, often of idealized women, as sentimental, but I love them anyway.
Stevenson Memorial by Abbott Handerson Thayer, 1903
[The letters "VAEA," the name of the mountain
in Samoa where Robert Louis Stevenson is buried,
are inscribed on this work.]

My Children (Mary, Gerald, and Gladys Thayer)
by Abbott Handerson Thayer, c. 1897

Virgin Enthroned
by Abbott Handerson Thayer, 1891

Angel by Abbott Handerson Thayer (1887)
[This is one of my favorites. The model was Thayer's daughter Mary.]

Adoration of St. Joan of Arc by J. William Fosdick (1896)

Adams Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (modeled 1886-91, cast 1969)
[This work has such a unique story that I've included the museum notes below.]

America Receiving the Nine Muses, painting on inside of piano lid
by Thomas Wilmer Dewing, 1903.  [Commissioned by
President Theodore Roosevelt for the White House]

Peacocks and Peonies stained glass by John La Farge, 1882

The Vine by Harriet Whitney
Frishmuth, 1921 and 1923

The Caress by Mary Cassatt, 1902

Sophie Hunter Colston
by William R. Leigh, 1896

The Concord Minuteman of 1775
by Daniel Chester French [sculptor
of the Lincoln Memorial], 1917

Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler (Mrs. John Jay
 by John Singer Sargent, 1893

Untitled American Indian Woman and American Indian Man
by an Unidentified artist, c. 1850-90

Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks, 1848-1849
[This is one of 60 versions of Peaceable Kingdom.  Note the pairing  of wild and domestic 
animals, as well as William Penn in the background making a treaty with the Indians.]

The Top of Mount Sinai with the Chapel of Elijah
by Miner Kilbourne Kellogg, 1844

Puck by Harriet Hosmer, 1856

I love the mushrooms under his mushroom.

by Edward R. Thaxter, c. 1878-1880

Study for the Apotheosis of Washington in the Rotunda of the
United States Capitol Building

by Constantino Brumidi (c. 1859-1862)
[That's GW in the center. He has ascended to heaven and is
looking down on visitors. Like Zeus, he is flanked by females--
13 of them, in fact, who represent the 13 colonies.]

La Mano Poderosa (The All-Powerful
 by the Puerto Rican Caban group,
c. 1875-1925

Our Lady of Light
by Gloria Lopez Cordoba, 1997


Liberty by Frederic Auguste 
Bartholdi, c. 1884 [This small-
scale version was on view in the 
Capitol rotunda from 1884-1887.

The Four Justices by Nelson Shanks, 2012
[Counterclockwise from bottom: Sandra Day
O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan,
and Sonia Sotomayor]

There are so many familiar names and faces at this museum. It's almost like a high school reunion. Either you know you've seen the painting/person before and you just can't quite identify it, or you're amazed at how well it has aged and how timeless it is.  Fun stuff.

Though not in the museum, I want to include one more artwork that we ran across while walking through downtown. It's in the outdoor sculpture garden, which unfortunately was closing just as we arrived. However I had time to snap this picture of a giant item that anyone much younger than I am will not be able to identify:
Typewriter Eraser, Scale X by Claes Oldenburg
and Coosje Van Bruggen, 1998-1999
 I love the Oldenburgs' work. I've also seen it in Minneapolis (Spoonbridge and Cherry) and Kansas City (giant badminton Shuttlecock).


  1. I'm blown away by your detailed review of the paintings, etc. I don't even remember half of them. Good job.

  2. This is one of those "so much to see, so little time" kinds of museums. Lots to love, but the typewriter eraser at the end is fabulous.