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American Women: A Selection from the National Portrait Gallery

April 29 - July 10, 2005


(above: Mildred Nungester Wolfe (born 1912), Eudora Alice Welty (1909 - 2001), oil on canvas, 1988. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. © 1958 Mildred Wolfe)

The stories of 68 pioneering women from colonial days to the present are told in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery's traveling exhibition American Women: A Selection from the National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition opens at the Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, South Carolina on April 29 and runs through July 10, 2005.

American Women highlights portraits of women of distinction from all walks of life. The exhibition includes such trailblazers as Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Sandra Day O'Connor and Marion Jones. Additionally, an eclectic mix of women from the arts and entertainment industries are represented, including Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Grace of Monaco, Ethel Merman and Marilyn Monroe. The show celebrates the efforts of these and other individuals who have had a profound impact on American society and culture.



"American Women brings together a wide array of personalities and fields of achievement," said Marc Pachter, director of the National Portrait Gallery. "These role models may vary in their accomplishments, but they are all bound together by their uncommon supply of determination." (above left: Raphael Soyer (25 Dec 1899 ­ 4 Nov 1987), Golda Meir (1898 - 1978), oil on canvas, 1975. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Cummings, Mr. and Mrs. Meyer P. Potamkin, and the Charles E. Smith Family Foundation. © Estate of Raphael Soyer, courtesy of Forum Gallery, New York; above right: Artis Lane (born 1927), Rosa Parks (born 1913), bronze, 1990. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Anheuser-Busch Companies and Artis Lane © 1990 Artis Lane)

Through a broad mix of artistic media and style, American Women captures the character of these women who have helped shape the American experience. Included is a diverse selection of images, from the 19th-century self-portrait of Sarah Miriam Peale -- one of the first women in America to earn a living as an artist -- to the colorful, yet somber painting of folk singer Joan Baez, done for the cover of Time magazine in 1962. (right: Sid Avery (12 Oct 1918 - 1 Jul 2002), Elizabeth Taylor (born 1932). gelatin silver print, 1955. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Ron and Donna Avery © 1978 Sid Avery)

Some of the artists included in the exhibition are: Sarah Miriam Peale, niece of famous American artist Charles Wilson Peale; Cecilia Beaux, who was awarded full membership in the male-dominated National Academy and became, in 1895, the first full-time woman faculty member at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Edward Steichen, an important figure in the history of photography and an integral part of the artistic movement to include photography as an art form; Irving Penn, whose photographs have become iconic examples of American art; and Alice Neel, who greatly influenced modernist movements in the 1960s.

American Women: A Selection from the National Portrait Gallery debuted at the Smithsonian's International Gallery in Washington, D.C. in June 2002 and was the Portrait Gallery's first major exhibition in the nation's capital since its home, the historic Patent Office Building, closed in January 2000 for extensive renovation. The tour began at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas and is presently at the Naples Museum of Art, Florida. The Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina will be the final venue for American Women. As such, it will be the last museum to host an exhibition from the National Portrait Gallery's collection prior to their reopening in July 2006.

Highlights of American Women: A Selection from the National Portrait Gallery:

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (by Boris Chaliapin). This portrait of the former first lady appeared on the cover of Time on the eve of President Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. Despite her reticence about being "a piece of public property," as the magazine article reported, Onassis was the object of public fascination until her death in 1994.
Marian Anderson (by Betsy Graves Reyneau). This painting depicts Anderson's famous 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial, which took place after the Daughters of the American Revolution blocked her appearance at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Although Anderson was not a civil rights activist, the event made her a symbol for years to come in the struggle for greater racial tolerance.
Marilyn Monroe (by David Geary). When this photograph was taken in Korea in 1954, Monroe was one of Hollywood's top-grossing stars, and thousands of G.I.s tried to get a glimpse of the icon. The masses were not disappointed because despite the cold weather, it may "have been the hottest day of the year." Hospitalman Second Class David Geary, a Navy medic, was in the crowd and took this image.

This exhibition has been organized by the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. Please visit http://www.npg.si.edu/


(above: David D. Geary (born 1930), Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962), silver dye bleach print, 1954 (printed later). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of David D. Geary)

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