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Makers of History in Washington, 1800-1950

June 29 – November 19, 1950
Main Floor, Galleries 60 - 67, 71, East Sculpture Hall, East Garden Court

Gilbert Stuart, John Adams, c. 1800/1815, oil on canvas, Gift of Mrs. Robert Homans, 1954.7.1

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: This exhibition celebrated the sesquicentennial of the establishment of the federal government in the city of Washington. Included were 143 portraits, paintings, and sculptures of eminent persons who had played an important role in historical events in Washington or a leading part in the founding and development of the city. In 1949, while the White House was undergoing extensive repairs, the National Gallery accepted custody of paintings, sculpture, and furniture. This made it possible, by courtesy of President and Mrs. Harry Truman, to show the entire collection of portraits of the presidents and their spouses usually seen only in the White House. Thus, with the addition of a few loans, a complete collection of portraits of United States presidents was on view. In some cases, the portrait of a president's spouse was not available; also, portraits of vice presidents and speakers of the House of Representatives could not be removed from the Capitol, where they are permanently installed as part of the decoration.

Galleries 67 and 71 were finished and installed for the first time for this exhibition, which was prepared by Perry B. Cott and James W. Lane. The National Capitol Sesquicentennial Commission provided funds for the exhibition. It was regarded as a preview of a future National Portrait Gallery.

Catalog: Makers of History in Washington, 1800-1950. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1950.