Obama Portraits DC

Meeting the Presidents at The National Portrait Gallery

There was a time where citizens only knew what their presidents looked like, thanks to paintings and statues. Quite different compared to now, when presidents are active all over social media, and you can’t turn on your TV without seeing another political ad. (Actually, maybe we should go back to a world where we never have to see our politicians actual faces!)

Barack Obama Presidential Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC

But despite seeing them constantly on TV, and in the press, we were happy to look upon the faces of America’s Presidents once more, in the National Portrait Gallery. Along with the White House, this is the only place which holds a complete collection of all the presidents, and we really enjoyed our visit.

The National Portrait Gallery was founded by a Congressional act in 1968, and occupies the old Patent Office building, right in the middle of DC. There are roving exhibitions in the gallery, which is much bigger than we expected, but the Presidents Collection is permanent, displaying all of the country’s leaders, from George Washington to Donald Trump. Traditionally the portraits are commissioned towards the end of the presidency, so we haven’t yet seen Joe Biden’s.

Video Of America’s Presidents

The newer portraits vary in format and styles, becoming more experimental as time progresses. The pieces capturing JFK and Bill Clinton really stood out, and we loved going through the exhibition in chronological order, reading the short texts which provide an (often brutally honest) overview of each presidency. It was interesting to see how styles have changed over the years, from clothing, to beards, and hairstyles. And surveying these 44 men in quick succession underlined how white and male this office has always been, with the lone exception of Barack Obama … not exactly an accurate reflection of the country’s citizenry.

Portraits Collection of America's Presidents

We only had time to see the Presidents collections but the gallery is filled with other great portraits, and we felt bad that we didn’t get a chance to check them out. The National Portrait Gallery is the kind of place you could easily spend a couple hours. And if you get tired, you can always take a rest in the building’s beautiful inner courtyard.

Portrait Gallery Map
America’s Presidents
National Portrait Gallery
Library of Congress Photos
Washington Souvenir Map
Portrait Gallery Video

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