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“From George Washington to George W. Bush, all in lovely oils!”

National Portrait Gallery
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Ranked #16 of 442 things to do in Washington DC
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Recommended length of visit: <1 hour
Owner description: Visitors can view the portraits of all the U.S. presidents.
New York City, New York
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1,096 reviews
603 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 564 helpful votes
“From George Washington to George W. Bush, all in lovely oils!”
Reviewed February 14, 2012

Since my girlfriend and I were coming to Washington, DC during Black History Month, I was very happy to hear that the National Portrait Gallery was holding an exhibit of Timothy Greenfield-Sanders "Black List," a series of photographs of some of the most noteworthy African-Americans, who have contributed to our culture in numerous ways.

On the way to this exhibit, we had to pass through the collection of portraits of all our presidents, which is wonderful. Starting with the iconic portraits of George Washington by Stuart and Peale and then John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and all the others, it is really wonderful to see. As I was looking at paintings of some of the presidents we hardly think about, Franklin Pierce and Zachary Taylor, I heard a small boy telling his father what he knew about them - "oh yes, this one was the 11th president, from such and such a year..." - a very sweet moment, and you could tell the boy was both in awe of seeing the portraits of the presidents, and proud of himself or remembering what he had learned in school.

Bridging the gap between those galleries and the ones holding the "Black List" was a series of all paintings and photographs of all the iconic figures in our recent history of civil rights advances - not just people like Dr. King and Rosa Parks who have advanced the cause of African-Americans, but also Native Americans and women who have been instrumental in advancing their causes.

Finally, I arrived at the goal and reason for visiting the Portrait Gallery - the Black List. I have seen the accompanying documentary of part one of this "List" on HBO, so I expected to see photographs of people like Colin Powell and Laurence Fishburne. It was great to see who has been added for the second and third parts of this series. But there are still some glaring omissions from the list - for example, none of Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier are there. The list would have more gravity if more of the truly seminal figures in African-American culture who are living were included.

The National Portrait Gallery's building also contains the Smithsonian Museum of American Art - in fact, the two museums are intertwined. We ventured into the American Art Museum a bit, seeing an Annie Liebovitz exhibit and also taking a look at a series of paintings of Native Americans from the 19th century which is part of the collection. This museum also contains things like Frederick Bartholde's 2-foot high model for the Statue of Liberty.

Visited February 2012
Thank Charming_Karl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Falls Church, Virginia
Level Contributor
148 reviews
55 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
“A little old timey”
Reviewed February 13, 2012

It's ok. Not my style of art but I'm sure plenty of people appreciate it.

Thank CareInn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Washington DC, District of Columbia
Level Contributor
22 reviews
16 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“Splendid building housing treasures”
Reviewed February 7, 2012

This should be on any tourist's list of must-sees. The collections change often enough to entice locals to keep coming back as well.

Thank Cuse2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Gainesville VA
Level Contributor
98 reviews
73 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 41 helpful votes
“Great paintings”
Reviewed February 7, 2012

The original of all the major portraits, the ones in your high school history books, are here. There is also a lot of other great art displayed here.

Thank bdjtbenson
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Lancaster, PA, USA
Level Contributor
23 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
“Great Museum, and Not Just Portraits”
Reviewed February 6, 2012

The portraits are terrific (classical paintings, contemporary President photos, etc) but the exhibits are spiced nicely with landscapes, furniture, silver (look for the 1880s era silver tea set with butterflies, a Viennese look 20 years early) and statuary. The rooms are also cordoned off, like someone' mansion, making for fun surprises everywhere. And we didn't get to the third floor, which a friend said was the best yet (we'll go back). Also don't miss the small display on F Street side of the renovation of this building (forrmerly US Patent Office)-- interesting also. Hey, it is said Uncle Sam spent $283M on the re-do; I must say it shows! Go see it, especially as we did on an early Friday afternoon in February. The place was (delightfully) uncrowded. And Free!

Visited February 2012
Thank GregorGourmand
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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