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Seventy-Five Years of National Gallery Paintings in the White House

The National Gallery of Art has been proud to loan hundreds of works of art to the White House over the past 75 years. As we prepare to share our collection with the new administration, we consider just a few notable examples here.

Rembrandt Peale, George Washington, c. 1850, oil on canvas, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George W. Davison, 1942.7.1

This portrait of George Washington was one of the first two works the National Gallery ever loaned to the White House. It hung there during the Harry Truman administration, from 1945 to 1948, and returned for another three years in 1976. 

John Frederick Kensett, Landing at Sabbath Day Point, c. 1853, oil on canvas, Gift of Mrs. Sigourney Thayer, 1968.7.1

John Frederick Kensett’s Landing at Sabbath Day Point enjoyed one of the longest tenures at the White House. Loaned in 1971 during the presidency of Richard Nixon, it remained there until the end of the George H. W. Bush administration in 1993—22 years later!

Joseph Bartholomew Kidd, after John James Audubon, Yellow Warbler, 1830-1833, pencil and oil on millboard, Gift of E.J.L. Hallstrom, 1951.9.8

In the 1970s the National Gallery loaned all four of our paintings by Joseph Bartholomew Kidd (all after John James Audubon) to the White House. Yellow Warbler was there from 1971 through 1978—that is, during the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter.

Mark Rothko, No. 7 [or] No. 11, 1949, oil on canvas, Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc., 1986.43.144

The National Gallery loaned No. 7 [or] No. 11 in 1999 during the Bill Clinton administration. Over the following decades, we would loan many more paintings by Mark Rothko to the White House. 

American 19th Century, Abraham Lincoln, c. 1864 or after, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1947.17.67

Over the years, the National Gallery has loaned four portraits of Abraham Lincoln to the White House—most recently, during the George W. Bush administration in 2001. This 19th-century portrait remained there until 2013.

Painted and drawn with areas of flat, vibrant colors, we look slightly down onto a bustling street market in this stylized, horizontal scene. It is created almost entirely with shades of sky and royal blue, buttercup and harvest yellow, caramel and ash brown, and spearmint green with only a few touches of brick and crimson red. The people all have black-colored skin with their features outlined in white. They sit, stand, gather, or walk along stalls lining the street that extends away from us. Some wear caps, headdresses, or are bareheaded. They wear wraps or togas that mostly leave arms bare. Some carry goods on their heads, sit and eat, hold children and babies, or reach for wares. One person holds a white chicken and another leads a couple of goats along the street. The inverted, narrow V of the street meets the shallow V of the rooflines of the buildings or awnings of the stalls just above the center of the composition. The upside-down triangular filling the distant area between the rooflines has a dark yellow ground where densely packed tables, carts, buildings, people, and several chickens are tiny in scale. A strip of blue along the top edge of the painting suggests the sky above. The artist signed and dated the work in graphite in the lower right corner, “Jacob Lawrence 64.”

Jacob Lawrence, Street to Mbari, 1964, glue tempera, opaque watercolor and graphite on wove paper, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James T. Dyke, 1993.18.1

In 2009, during the Barack Obama administration, the National Gallery’s loans to the White House included for the first time a work by an African American artist: Jacob Lawrence’s Street to Mbari

Alice Neel, Loneliness, 1970, oil on canvas, Gift of Arthur M. Bullowa, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, 1991.143.1

The National Gallery’s loans also included works by women artists beginning in 2009. We loaned this painting by Alice Neel in 2014.

George Peter Alexander Healy, after Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Jefferson, 1848/1879, oil on canvas, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase, Gallery Fund), 2016.23.10

Portraits of past presidents remain popular at the White House. The National Gallery loaned this portrait of Thomas Jefferson during the Donald Trump administration in 2017. Having loaned art to the White House during every presidential administration since 1945, we look forward to carrying on the tradition.