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Washington, D.C. Sights

National Portrait Gallery

  • 8th and F Sts. NW Map It
  • Downtown
  • Fodor's Choice
  • National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., USA

    (c) Luckydoor |

Fodor's Review

The intersection of art, biography, and history is illustrated here through images of men and women who have shaped U.S. history. There are prints, paintings, photos, and sculptures of subjects from George Washington to Madonna.


This museum shares the National Historic landmark building Old Patent Office with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Built between 1836 and 1863, and praised by Walt Whitman as the "noblest of Washington buildings," it is deemed one of the country's best examples of Greek Revival architecture.

The museum has the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House. Here, you'll see a plaster cast of Abraham Lincoln's head and hands and political cartoonist Pat Oliphant's sculpture of George H. W. Bush bowling.

The American Origins exhibit chronicles the first contact between Europeans and Native Americans, the Founding Fathers, and historic figures through the Industrial Age. Subjects

include Native American diplomat Pocahontas and Thomas Edison in his workshop.

From portraits of World War II generals Eisenhower and Patton to Andy Warhol's Time magazine cover of Michael Jackson, the third-floor gallery, Twentieth-Century Americans, offers a vibrant tour of the people who shaped the country and culture of today.

Elaine de Kooning: Portraits through January 10, 2016, presents 66 of the artists’ portraits. Eye Pop: The Celebrity Gaze is an exhibition of celebrity portraits on display through July 10, 2016.


The Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum are two different museums within the same building—the art complements the portraits, setting up a rich dialogue between the two.

The elegant covered courtyard has a café and is frequently the site of performances and special events. At the "Portrait Connection" computer kiosks, you can search a database of the gallery's collections.

There are free docent-led tours weekdays at 11:45, 1, and 2:15, and most weekends at 11:45, 1:30, and 3:15. Check the website to confirm times. At the Lunder Conservation Center on the third and fourth floors, you can watch conservators restoring works.

Inspire art appreciation in children through NPG's Open Studio on Friday from 1:30 to 4:30, Portrait Story Days on weekends, and Family Days with scavenger hunts. All are free; no registration required.

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Sight Information


8th and F Sts. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20001, USA

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Sight Details:

  • Free
  • Daily 11:30–7


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