tv National Portrait Gallery History and Mission CSPAN February 8, 2015 6:45pm-8:01pm EST
t is my pleasure to report to you the results of polio vaccinations today. we had a good opportunity to study effectiveness last year. here's a very simple chart which indicates how the vaccine works during 1955. this is based on reports from 22 states. among vaccinated children, the attack rate for polio was only 6.3 over 100,000. the unvaccinated rate was 29.2 per 100,000. almost four times as high. the studies involved about 8.5 million children whose ages ranged from 5-11. even though these children had one injection instead of three the vaccine was found to be 70% effective.
put another way, the boys and girls received at least one injection of vaccine at four times as much protection as those without it. we can all be proud of the salk vaccine. we can all share in this victory. it will lead to many more in the years ahead. >> for maximum protection for paralytic polio, three inoculations. the second given no more than three weeks after the first. the third, no more than seven months later. everyone in your community should be vaccinated now. vaccination will saves lives from death or paralysis this year. help your child grow up strong and straight. free from crippling polio. youngsters like david eisenhower, like polio pioneers randy kerr, are part of a bright
new future which will see the unconditional surrender of infantile paralysis. ♪ >> next on american history tv national portrait gallery senior historian david ward gives a virtual tour. he focuses on presidential portrait including andrew jackson, abraham lincoln, and harry truman. the smithsonian's portrait gallery has the nation's largest collection of presidential portraits. the director explains the gallery's mission and its efforts to interpret the collection for a 21st century audience. the kansas city public library hosted this event. it is just over an hour.
>> thank you so much for having us. henry, thank you so much for this wonderful program at the kansas city public library. and the executive director, thank you. it is such a pleasure to get to know you and see your amazing facilities. we are all terribly envious. also to alex, the executive director of the truman library. thank you so much. we have a partnership going, lending their major john kennedy portrait by tuning -- de koening to us. i would like to invite all three gentlemen to come up to the stage because we are going to do an interesting unveil. robin trust and thae art curator is going to unveil the reproduction. you will be able to see it on screen. we are going to do a virtual unveiling here. so you've been a great friend of the portrait gallery. robin,a are you ready? ok, let's go for it. here we go. [applause]
i have to say that it was this wonderful serendipity when jonathan came to the portrait gallery, we started talking, and i said we need some help. there is a major painting that has come up. it's expensive. the foundation and the entire kemper family, we feel that you are our family at this estonian, they said absolutely. we could not do it without you. this is going to go up in the hall of president. david ward, our senior historian, is going to talk more and a minute, but this original picture is in washington. and now you all have an invitation to come. it is your portrait gallery. thank you, gentlemen, so much for making it happen. [applause] so now it is my distinct
pleasure to invite up to the podium to talk a little bit about what we do our senior historian david ward. i had the pleasure of working with david for a while now. we have a wonderful, deep and meaningful raging arguments about various topics. burt it's very stimulating to work with david. he is one of those people that has a foot in history but also very muchcontemporary culture. he is an historian by training but has an art historian hat on. we are one of the only museums that hires both historians and art historians. one day i will have to write a paper about what that is like. so david welcome to the stage. [applause] >> thank you kim.
i enjoy the argument. i i want to thank the kempers. i'm an historian you cannot do genealogy. i want to thank the kempers of whom there are a fairly several thousand. i want to thank the messy unit. i'm delighted to be the public levy because their only two seal you need and now is to knwo how to read. and i learned how to read in the public library where i grew up. i hope it is worthwhile for you. it has been worthwhile for me. to do history. what i want to talk about is the hall of president, political portraiture. and i want to talk about the smithsonian which started as museum of things. natural history specimens and technology -- dinosaurs and the dragster, steam engines, and snakes at things like that.
sometime in the mid-1960's somebody realized, there are no people here. [laughter] which is a tough thing and a democracy, particularly a popular democracy like the united states and which, as andrew jackson and harry truman would say, people are king. so the national portrait gallery was founded to give a human face to what had been a record of achievement by americans in other areas and we are found in, where in the old patent office building which was begun in the 1803's in -- in the 1830's in the administration of andrew jackson. we are the third oldest surviving federal building along with the capital and the white house. we are in the patent office building because it is -- america's greatest invention has always been americans. a cliche of the melting pot but nonetheless it's true. the element of waves of
immigrants, the assimilation of different people, the way that with -- in which there is a national dialogue about what it means to be an american. andrew jackson, known as king andrew to his friends, the man who created the modern democratic party in which henry truman -- harry truman was the heir. giving birth to the small farmer in the south and the midwest forging a democratic politics against the wig aristocracy which defended from the federalist party of alexander hamilton, the national bank and the national capitol. andrew jackson, despite being a great democrat, was also somebody who, like most presidents -- i can only think of a couple exceptions -- andrew jackson knew full well image is everything.
he actually went so far -- this is one of the reasons why he was seen as king andy -- he hired an englishman to be his portrait painter. he lived in the white house and painted more than one, close to a dozen portraits of andrew jackson. it was an early form of political advertising, a form of creating an image that would be devon's -- disseminated across the country and woodcuts and other media that would dissent from this oill painting. the point i want to make is that all portraiture in some sense is a fiction. it is supposed to tell us something about her inner soul our personality -- what do you show in what you hide? political portraiture is important that you hide privately everything. because you want to be president, right? andrew jackson never looks like this.
this painting is 8 feet tall. a fictive view of the truman library. these pillars. we see the capital in the background for the weeping willows, the tropical, and andrew jackson is smooth, elegant, altogether polished. he looks like he has invented the waterpower hairdryer. he's got the fantastic cloak. the see those heels which are a sign of his personal authority. great clothing. andrew jackson was probably the angriest man pound for pound in the history of the united states. he was about five foot 10, 138 pounds. he was in constant pain because he had a bullet in his back from one of the five duels he had fought. he had taken a bullet. after being wounded, he stayed on his feet and killed the man who challenged him. andrew jackson was caloric --
choleric, steeped in the masculinity of the tennessee frontier in which a man defended himself first and then argued. he brought that same combativeness to his politics, challenging the judicial senators john calhoun and all the rest. as he staked out a claim for the common man, state out of claim for the foundation of the oldest political party in the world -- the democratic party. this, of course, earl washes all of that away in this picture. of course, andrew jackson should be president. just look at him. it's fantastic. this portrait which we have in a place of auto because the patent office building was done in his administration, dissent from this, which is the origins of most political porcher in -- portraiture, which is the lansdowne portrait of george
washington which is our signature image in the hall of presidents. the only people who get in automatically to the portrait gallery are the peasants -- are the presidents. other people have to be voted in . and this picture, what is happening here is gilbert stuart is combining george washington create the office of the president. again, the sense in which the fraught history of the early republic, the revolution, all the rest of it are solidified in the person of washington, the inevitable, the essential man won the revolution, becomes the unanimous choice for president. and stewart creates this model of national unity in the figure of washington. so you have a whole series of symbols, again, there is this fictive space. washington did not have an open-air office in new york. this elaborate pillar. the winds of change are blowing.
it does not take an art historian to see with the rainbow means. ronald reagan got his morning in america from this picture. do you see the great seal on the chair? you cannot do this after mussolini? this is the fascist. the classical symbol of unity out of diversity. wrapped up the 13 colonies, the 13 states becoming one. and he then shows the law books underneath there which is the root of our constitution, of our politicians. what stewart was doing was that he was playing off this, the -- i see you started to laugh. you are good americans. i like that. this is george iii. handsome man. swanking about the palace at windsor. this was his coronation. he is wearing every endangered specie known to man. and elaborate, corrupt -- the
american revolution was fought on the corrupt liberties by eng land. stuart ships everything down and creates a black suit. washington's service as a general is reduced to a sword. if the notice, a great tough. the ink well is noah's ark. it is incredibly important to american political ideology. america is where the world will begin anew. this is where we can be purified -- the last just man in this case washington will lead us into a new path of righteousness . this is the beginning of the american republic and is very complicated political portrait. when washington left office after two serbs, setting a precedent, george iii said by doing that he became the greatest man in the world because what he meant was there
would be no monarch, no caesar, no dictatorship, no hereditary ruler. there would be a republic of you could keep it, in the words of ben franklin. ogd so far we have. i have to let you in on a secret. america has always had a purulent view in the art. the 19th century is seen as a kind of corruption, a divergent from our duty of settling the land. it is seen as corrupt. it is not until later in the century that you begin to get our institutions, including places like nelson atkins, that support a civic idea of art and culture. what you have in the 19th century is pretty good portraiture. because there was a necessity particularly for politicians, to
get their images out there. that continues to this day with television. these people were not known. it is not a society saturated with images. there would again be this process of oil paintings made to commemorate a life and career. in this case, a very sly martin van buren. looking especially sly and foxy at this particular moment in his career. he would famously not give an opinion on anything, including whether the sun came up in the east. he famously responded, i do not get up until 10:00 a.m. [laughter] this is a reputational portrait by gpa healey. a nice solid oil portrait. that element of blocking off all the tumult of politics, as we see with jackson and van buren the whole politics of the 19th
century gets subsumed into the formalities of the his pose. then you run into lincoln, in the most dramatic case. the best pictures in our hall of residence for the 19th century because lincoln recognized that things were changing with photography. he paid attention to the idea of for similitude. he had these likenesses that would become waxworks or sculptures. but there was this hunger by the american public to know what people look like. on the left is lincoln before the inauguration. on the right is lincoln two months before for theater. it looks like a death mask. people think it is a death mask because he is so exhausted.
lincoln recognized early on the power of photography to establish a democratic persona in our democracy. this is the famous picture that matthew brady took of him when he went to speak at henry ward beecher's church and the cooper union. it is actually tiny. that is one of the problems with powerpoint. it is the size of a visiting card. lincoln said, this is the picture that made me president. he goes down madison avenue and he has brady take his portrait. it establishes ham, along with the speech, which is a well reasoned argument against secession, it establishes him not just as an intellectual, but also the persona that he becomes identified. this becomes his calling card.
this is the next to last portrait of lincoln. this is where political portrait disappears into myth. this is alexander gardner's famous cracked plate of lincoln. it was a glass plate negatives. somehow took the portrait out and it cracked slightly. you can see the line. gardner took one image and said, that is not is -- any good. so we have the only cracked plate image. it is february 1865. the war is winding down. lincoln knowns he as -- has won it. you can see this is out of focus. this is where the plane of political portraits hiding things becomes broken and we start to step inside the space inhabited by an actual human being. this is lincoln between life and death. he is looking forward to
reconstruction, a second term, looking forward to winning the war. we know he is going to die. this is us triangulating backwards from our vantage point , meeting the past halfway with the assassin's bullet. john wilkes booth, you can read the crack as the division of the union. but what this is as an historical document editors the commendation of myth and history. now he belongs to the ages. it was noted that lincoln was shot on good friday. the element of mythmaking begins almost instantly with this. that transports us away from the vernacular of political portraits that i have been discussing. which gets reestablished in the 20th century. oil painting remains -- it will be interesting to see who the
first president is who does not photograph or some other media some other medium to represent himself. or herself. see what i did there? but oil painting remains king. this is a study of frank when roosevelt that completed because of his death. someone said a portrait is where something is wrong with the smile or the hands. you can see the artist really concerned with this study about what to do with the hand in which roosevelt is holding his glasses and pen. it was a study for the conference a att alta. the only way joseph allen death -- joseph stalin can get in is
through an unfinished portrait. you will notice he is smoking. one of franklin roosevelt's accoutrements was an iv cigarette holder. you can see the kind of sensitivity which is being reestablished and balanced between a kind of informality with the pose of the cigarette and his famous naval cloak. and the head of the president looking thoughtful and powerful. we have reestablished vocabulary of the president. as a historian of the portrait gallery, because we are a national museum, there are certain political issues that come up. i have a macro on my computer which answers a question for the next two pictures. we had someone say, you must hate jack kennedy because you
have this terrible abstract or trick of kennedy -- portrait of kennedy. this is a 1962 john f. kennedy. what it is is a way in which art is beginning to influence the political portrait, the balance between the lightness of the head. it is not a complete extra action -- abstraction. you can see the vigorous brushstrokes. so this is a very large picture. the next one is jack kennedy's great antagonist, richard nixon. this is a smaller picture. about 10 x 15 by norman rockwell. i have people say you must be a communist because you have a giant jack kennedy and a small
richard nixon. i have a macro on my commuter -- computer that says it has nothing to do with that. these pictures are in conversation with each other in the galleries. you have the obstruction of the portrait talking and conversing with the realism in the depiction of norman rockwell. i do have to tell an anecdote about harry truman. harry truman was probably the last present was going to be allowed to swear in public. harry truman said, there are two sons of birt -- bitches in politics i hated, and one of them was richard nixon. in 1968, richard nixon is elected president. with all respect to him, he was doing the best he could with what was one of the worst years in american history. again, rockwell turns this into
a thoughtful portrait of the president. again, going all the way back to the grand manner of portrait of jackson, whiteout all questions. you cannot necessarily tell character by a portrait that is painted. there is this interesting question of call and response, back and forth between what is revealed and concealed. looping all the way back, we have harry truman. this is the person we were replacing, which has been up in the gallery for a while. it is a good likeness. i have to say it is a little soft. you will notice the theme of a landscape over to the side. a little bucolic. it looks a little like a reader's digest illustration from the 1950's. i do not think it gives completely truman his due.
which is why the portrait you have gotten a copy of, this one bob fitzgerald -- i think he likes to talk -- he was talking to me before the presentation. this is a stripped-down unadorned portion -- portrait that does not have what we see in the gilbert stork. he is looking at you with this wise expression. his job is determined. he is wearing the fancy suit the pocket square. there is the national flag. what you have here is a picture of absolute authority in one of the most fraught periods of history. certainly one of the most anxiety inducing periods in american history. it is may 1945, he is just become president. all the moons and planets have fallen on him.
he is faced with a monumental task of ending the war in japan, with or without the atomic bomb. you see absolutely none of that in this forthright portrait of harry s truman. again, and truman confesses in his writings that he feels anxious. that he cannot measure up. he has a sense he is only going to be able to do the best he can. and that may well not be good enough. he is a very shrewd judge of other men and women. he resolves to do the best he can. i want to conclude with the way in which this portrait at that particular moment in our time in history, seems to make the success of the german presidency inevitable. and makes a whole lot of questions move.
there's the question of shutting off, questions of discord questions of conflict. so why do this? why do this former -- formal political advertising? why commemorate the president as a stuffed shirt? you do it because you are commemorating a role. you are paying attention to the issues in his presidency. in the way in which we need to honor these people. honor the presidents. we have the only full collection of all the presidents. i invite you to see it in more detail. for me, as a historian, they serve as almost a time travel situation. what you are seeing behind it is everything that leads up to the picture of absolute authority. picture of absolute equanimity. what you do is start with this portrait and move backwards in the history of truman, his
incredibly interesting life, the way in which you worked up out of kansas city, working for his father on the farm, through the army, to the vice presidency. an incredible story. really last the ordinary american to become president. maybe ronald reagan too. the way this is a portal back into time and into the incredibly complicated and difficult ways in which someone makes a career at anything, let alone as inexplicable as the president of the united dates -- states. so you juxtapose that picture with this one, which gets us into the nitty-gritty of politics. it gets us back into all the complexities, not just of american politics, all of the issues we continue to grapple with but all of the issues of character and personality that
♪ >> my name is kim sajet. that is a little glimpse into the 23,000 portraits we have at the national portrait gallery. you can see we represent all of america. as i often say, we are the kind of glue, that keeps the smithsonian together. whether it is einstein or jane goodall or neil armstrong. we link to the aerospace museum and the zoo. we relate to all of you in that way. one of the worst forms of punishment you can give to someone is to put them into solitary confinement. we are a museum about people and for people. but we are part of that humanity. i would like to talk a little bit about the challenges. this is our building.
take up four blocks. there was a renovation in 2006. you can see the wonderful courtyard roof done by norman foster. we are not on the mall, thank goodness, because that is a very crowded place. we are a very contemplative laced to come. we like to say we are the base of america. when i worked that out, i was so happy. as we talk about the challenges, one of the challenges for a portrait gallery in this day and age, we often say if we were just a place, you think of a portrait gallery as where you see famous men and women, that would put us to shame. we are focused on education. history is the worst performing subject in the united states. why does that matter? if you do not know why we have
the freedom of speech particularly in europe with charlie hebdo, if you do not know why that is important, we have freedom of religion and the press, the right to vote -- all the values that keep this country together and is much admired around the world. we are not teaching the foundation of that through history. the people who made that history, we could be just like this cartoon. i actually say we are contemporary. the art of history, but we are also about art. it is not rocket science, the way we get work into this collection. you have to have a representative picture of men and women have made an impact. even though you can see george custer's portrait in the 1860's as a young man, you can be in the middle, george patton, and a
very recent commission we did of: powell -- colin powell. we can tell the trajectory of the u.s., which makes each of these pictures, whether it was done in the 19 century or today, contemporary. we are bringing all of our background to today. i would say this is as much a contemporary picture because you are looking at it as the colin powell. we can make some of these great association. you want to think about technology, particularly communications. we have benjamin franklin. for those of you who are lucky enough to have a $100 bill in your wallet. you notice -- recognize this picture. we have thomas edison in 1890. i love this picture. i do not know if many people realize, but he was largely deaf after 14.
but we have the photograph, which he presented as a patent. kind of comes full circle. the photograph was brought to the patent office building which is the national portrait gallery. we have a picture in 1982 of steve jobs. we can look -- if we want to look at oracle rice, we have a millionaire ehrhardt -- amelia earhart, and buzz aldrin and michael collins in 1969. this is one of my favorite pictures. i use this as a way of talking about the problems we face and the challenges we have. i love this picture. i have been a little obsessed one might say. it is called men of progress.
it is from 1862. these are the brightest minds in invention. we are telling the whole world we are smart and an innovative country. can see various patents that have come to the patent office buildings. you may not be able to see it here. this is colt with his gun. the telegraph in the corner. all of these individuals are being sort of looked at by the ultimate individual of innovation in america, which is ben franklin himself. doesn't this make you feel fantastic? yes, if you are a white man. i look at this, and it is interesting. i am the first female director of the gallery. i have been told i'm shaking things up a little bit on that front. were there no women allowed to
do patents, administer patents in the patent office building? i did some research, and around 2400 patents were submitted by women. then we find the situation that we have the patent. if you want to register an idea you had to actually bring a small model of what your idea was and some drawings. margaret knight invented the paperback making machine. but we have no idea what she looked like. what are we to do? we talk about the history of the united states through its people. we do not know what margaret looks like. we would probably love to include her and many other women. but one of the things we pride ourselves on is the center has had a relationship with the artists. so we are in this weird situation where we do not want to go back in time and fill in.
what are the things we are talking about is, how do we show the presence of absence in galleries? another example, and if we are talking about the trajectory of women, we recently had this painting come in. you can see soanya sotomayor ruth bader ginsburg, and sandra day o'connor. we call it the supremes. [laughter] they came and had their unveiling. i cannot tell you how may times i come across the gallery and see some bright spots. people take a selfie. it is the easiest way to get into the supreme court that i know of. you see this wonderful woman of 1913 who graduated from law school in washington and became one of the first female lawyers
in the united face -- state. she became a teacher and a principal. despite the fact she was not allowed to vote, she actually wanted to become president and ran for president in 1884 on the ticket of national equal rights party. she was the first woman ever to appear on the official ballot. it was thanks to women like bel va who is in the collection, that we can talk about the story of the supremes. it is not just about women. it is also about native americans. here we have sequoia. sequoia was a son of a cherokee chief who wrote to -- worked to develop a written form of that native language. he created an alpha that in 1828. we have geronimo in the middle in 1890. then foots to shoulder born in
minnesota. this is a portrait of him in 1987. we come to african americans frederick douglass care very much about how he was perceived. he spent a lot of time in his dress and perception of him. the reality was you was a very learned individual. we have w e dubois of 1925, who talked about the challenge of being african american and american. the two types of identities african had to play and continue to play. and henry louis gates junior, a recent portrait from 2011. we also have latinos. we are proud to say we are doing a lot of work now with --
accepted about 50 new portraits in the last 18 months. we have a curator really looking at who is missing. the presence of absence. we will be doing an exhibition on dolores suerta, standing next to cesar chavez and the farmworkers in the strike. we also had the pleasure doing an exhibition on dance. rita moreno still looks like this now. she was in west side story. there she is looking glamorous in 1958. and pedro martinez in 2000. and asian-americans, james wong howe, a photographer of over 130 films. and mma -- anna mae wong in 1937.
and the disabled. particularly with all the conflicts we have had overseas whether it is physically disabled or other disabilities like i mentioned with edison, i think that one thing museums have not done a great deal of his being inclusive of our population of people who have disabilities. here are three examples. alexander hamilton stephens in 1882. christopher reeves in 2004. and elwood kelly and chuck close some of the greatest american artists we have had. it is a detail of a larger painting in 2002. one of the questions we have to ask ourselves is how do we, as a 21st century institution, make sure we are inclusive of everyone without rewriting
history and staying true to our tenants? we always have these arguments that, had someone made national significance, and that is where the historians come into play, can we find a great work of art? sometimes you just cannot. commission it. one of the wonderful things, i have the greatest job in the world, i get to meet all these very interesting people. this was a portrait presentation with maia angelou. it was about two weeks before she died. we got calls that she was not well, we had to do it soon. we did not know what you would be like on stage. she kind of came alive and sang gospel tunes that reached to the back of the auditorium. we were amazed. oprah winfrey was there. julian bond. it was just a wonderful event. we have a wall in the portrait gallery where someone passes away.
recently, robin williams. we put their portrait of and we invite the public to write in a book. when we did that for maya, we sent the book to her family. as we were mentioning to friends earlier, up until recently, you had to be dead for 10 years before you got into the portrait gallery, which made it hard to be contemporary. it also made it hard to be hard that you did have portraits where the artist had a relationship with the sitter. so we were the first portrait galley -- and ever since we instituted this in 2002, the portrait gallery in london has joined us. another in australia and scotland. even those we beat. we were the first to say, we are going to create this other
category called the contemporary collection, where you are kind of in the middle. you are in purgatory. it allows us to think, has this person made significant impact on the country? and at least get the work into the collection and let future generations decide whether they have made an impact or not. you can see katy perry dressed as a cupcake with the artist will cotton. this was put together recently. i am always cursing the portrait gallery in london. they have their kings and queens, people getting their head cut off. what is not to love? they still have princes. princess kate goes to visit the memorial. people go quite hysterical, because whatever she is wearing is fabulous. we have cupcake katy. she looks like a queen. you can really model this
picture, very similar to a portrait of elizabeth the first. butter would not melt in this woman's mouth. i think that was very intentional. the other thing we are thinking and we talk a lot about, is making sure we look at how portraits are being made. it is not just about the people it is about the artwork. this is mya linn. we often have a dialogue. if you know about her, she did the vietnam veterans memorial when she was young. she is very much into data. a real data geek. she is an architect and an artist. she said, i really love this artist karen saunders. she does 3-d scanning. we had literally kind of a mini mya. it is 3-d.
she got scanned. it will be on a little pedestal in an exhibition coming up called ipop. one of the things we say to people and we change exhibitions constantly, in 2013, we did 12% of exhibitions at the smithsonian. we are like gerbils on the wheel. can't stop. there is always something new to see. even with the, we change those portraits. we kind of update them all the times. we have 1600 portraits of the presidents. but there is always something new. this is an example. david went into the life masks of lincoln. here is the life masks of george washington. as you may has in recently in the news, we did the first 3-d printing of president obama. it is really an extension of the
life mask. first, they tried to do a demonstration on our lincoln life mask. i had the great pleasure of going to the white house. it took them three days to set up the equipment in the dining room of the white house. the president came in and saw the lincoln mask. i said, here you go. this was 1860 and 1865. >> he said, that is what the presidency will do for you. [laughter] >> you can be very glad that you live today and do not have to have five hours of plaster stuck up your nose. he literally sat down for five seconds, a light went off, and we have -- this is an absolute replica of the president. of course, it is in the traditional white. they can even replicate the skin tones and colors. it is a very interesting conversation about where is the
artist in the process? as we are thinking about identity. we are now doing video art. this is jason sullivan's work called the midnight triad. three talkshow host, letterman leno and conan all talking at the same moment. people get it and really enjoy it. part of the video is the challenge of actually keeping to the spirit of the artist. when we first got this piece, it was in 2004. we showed it again in 2010. all the technology has changed. you could get better projectors, better screens. as you update those, you're changing the original work of art. this is where being part of the smithsonian is fabulous. we have a lot of smart people
who are leading the way in thinking about technology in art making and record-keeping whether it is websites or blogs or anything else. i am very interested in -- there were a couple of ways to think about the portrait gallery. one is the collection. fairly recognizable portraits of men and women. let's look at who is in and who is out. then there is exhibitions. we have the permanent collection that tells the history of america and the president. but also about biography. we have a room where we will focus on a single person. about history, we did the war of 1812 as told through its people. also identity. hopefully, this was something you heard about. we created a six acre portrait on the national mall made out of 2000 tons of sand, 800 tons of topsoil.
that was during october. you can see that the lincoln memorial is the world war ii memorial. on the corner would be the washington monument. the picture was taken from the washington monument. it was done by a cuban-american artist called jorge rodriguez. is called house of many one. he walked around the national mall and took people of young men between the ages of 18-35 and created a composite image. it is an amalgam of many people. you could walk through it. the pictures are little fun it -- fuzzy. your perception changes when you are on the ground versus seeing it from the air. it was a great way to announce that the portrait gallery is not what you may be once thought it was. we want to talk about identity.
about what it is to be human and american and part of this community we call america. you could see it from space. it was kind of remarkable. more remarkable is that we did this with the national park service. [laughter] not to be underestimated. a lot of people said, we cannot believe you pulled this off. we did it in eight months. all the material was donated. it cost the american people nothing. when we went to the national park service, and we have is really crazy idea, what do you think, expecting to be rejected, they never do anything like this you have to sell your first-born child to do things on the national mall. this is the reflecting pool. they say, we love it. we thought we were in an alternate time space continuum. they were great partners. it was absolutely fantastic.
they said, we want to do more of this kind of project. got a real conversation going in the center of washington. i'm going to spend a little time talking about the exhibitions coming up. this is one life grant and lee. we have done martin luther king, amelia ehrhardt. one side is grant the other side's lead. very elegant and really terrific. we do this one, a contemporary art installation of six artist that are performing their identity. they are all u.s. latino. it is a really interesting show. interestingly, a lot of the artists are referencing their families. just a little story -- the main portrait of john kennedy belongs
to the truman library. they have a policy of commissioning the portrait of the living president. the kennedy ministration constant -- consciously chose elaine. she was a fast painter, and jack kennedy did not sit down for a long time. she got kind of obsessed with jack kennedy. you can see the of session at play in a photograph. there were many pictures and drawings she did. a whole section of the exhibitions will be on the kennedys. she was a hell of a painter. she has never had a major show. as we often say, she was not in her husband shadow, but in his light. ipop and the celebrity gaze. particularly with a artists, and
the sitter, someone is always manipulate someone else. we have spike lee, brad pitt. it is a big picture and the eyes are memorizing -- mesmerizing. and a big video of britney spears. it is a very interesting pop moment, in this very baroque gold frame. kind of complicated messaging going on about iconography and the madonna. it is going to be a great exhibition on our first-floor gallery this year. this is another exhibition that david is doing. by now, you will recognize the alexander gardner cracked plate lincoln. dark fields of the republic. after the civil war, lots of matthew brady's pictures were attributed to alexander gardner
who worked with him and had a studio in washington. after the civil war, he went west. definitely cut through this part of the world. he documented the native american tribes. he has never had a major exhibition. it will be a big retrospective very beautiful. work that has never been seen before. we are partnering with the national museum of the american indian on that. very quickly, what else do we do? we do, -- conservation. storage and installation. digitize asian. -- digitization. about 20% of the collection is digitized. online collections and social media. there are some of the mobile apps we do.
and we focus on teachers because we believe we can help teachers teach history better. i think the reason history's worst performing subject in the united states is because we have been teaching it badly for a long time. if we could actually talk about it from the perspective of individuals, which is always interesting, i think we would have different thoughts about history. teenagers, you can see we have a program where teenagers actually become one of the people in our portraits and do research on them and have to deliver a monologue or play to the public. and public programs. i hope you can guess. it is not a normal public in washington. this was an elvis competition family day. kind of a lot of fun. art making workshops. spaces for the public to come and truly make art. and we have touring exhibitions. we very much hope some of our
exhibitions will be able to come here. we would love to come talk to you about anything. that is the great thing about the portrait gallery. you can see some of the shows we sent on the road. going in the wrong direction. and this is our courtyard. from the inside, we literally have an urban garden with a river that runs through it. i really do hope you can come and see us. we plan to be here. i hope we will meet again. so i'm going to invite david to come up. we are going to open the floor up for questions if you have any. you will go from there. [applause] any questions? >> that was easy. >> fantastic. no questions at all? no burning desires? oh great. >> when i visit the gallery, and
i will now what presidential portrait captures the true character of that president? >> the cracked plate lincoln for me, is the piece in the gallery. the cracked plate lincoln is -- i find it an incredible work of art. i tried to indicate that it opens up so much in terms of the relationship between history and character. it is evocative. the other thing is that gardner was very skillful. that's why hope to show in my large retrospective of his work. just so i will not repeat the entire talk, if you saw the custer picture that kim shared, when of the things about photography is that it allows you to go back into the midst of a career. you do not do a retrospective of
martin van buren at the end of his term. when you do is you see custer at age 23 before he becomes custer. i find that angrily moving. -- incredibly moving. >> the video at the beginning, i thought was extraordinarily powerful. it was like looking at a family album. they were my uncles and aunts. except they were these great national figures. question -- all these wonderful presidents, do we have wonderful not residents? the ones who missed, the ones who missed by a lot? >> we did an exhibit on the losers. [laughter]
first of all there is a genealogy of politics that we have, particularly in the 19 century. henry clay ran for president 37 times. clay-webster calhoun. breckenridge. stephen douglas. people that ran repeatedly. we did an exhibition on the people who did not make it. the gallant losers. that was some time ago. then we bring them up because people who run for president, by and large, have careers that we can use in other areas. >> should mention that not until the clintons do we now collect first ladies at the same time. we have a beautiful portrait of hillary. we are not allowed to put it out. it could be seen as us making a political statement. but it is in one of our offices.
a gorgeous picture. when we find a great picture of one of the first ladies, we have a terrific dolly madison, which our artist friends love it she famously saved a major order of washington when the white house was burning. she is kind of the patron saintess of art historians. >> the thing that people tend to forget about is that even famous people did not necessarily have a portrait done of them. and that gets to the real -- the fact we have to inspect the discipline of portraiture and art and the career. the worst case in that is we get complaints that do not have an oil painting of dr. king. the tragic reason for that is he was killed before any oil painting could be done of him. we have x. very powerful photographs of him. but there is simply no oil
portrait of him. it is reflective of the tragedy. >> you did not mention your competition. if you could just make a few comments about that. >> so to give them credit, the national portrait gallery of london has had for a while a national orchards competition. there's is different from ours. it is just painting. we do it every three years and it is all mediums. we are very much hoping we can tour it to the rest of america. it is open to any artist living and working in america. they hope -- have to have a masters in that medium and a relation with a sitter. we had about 400 and trents -- entrants and picked 48 artists.
the first and second prize winners were video. the winner of the portrait competition is then commissioned to do a portrait of someone we want in the collection. we actually had the winter do a video piece of esperanza spalding, which is kind of great. you can look it up on youtube. we sort of released this work of art. it is not actually in the gallery. it is in a virtual environment. we had a woman who was japanese-american. she said, when i came to this country, she realized all i do is eat rice. she made a self-portrait out of rice of herself. it is the public -- they love it. it is so real. you can see all sorts of -- it is what is the cutting edge of the genre. if you know people who are artists, we encourage them to apply. complete unknown artists come to us that way. >> the other thing i will say
real quickly, going back to the political nature of this country, the english portrait gallery is by invitation. by democracy, anyone can enter hours. >> we are just better than they are. [laughter] says the australian. >> we welcome you here. >> i was surprised to learn that there are six states that have no elected women in office. i was thinking about how portraiture may serve as a view of what is happening. because you are close to that, particularly with contemporary portraits, what are you seeing that we might not see? just to give you an opportunity to sort of have a lens on our culture that we may not be aware of. >> one of the interesting things, we spend a lot of time talking about that recently. you might be surprised to learn that 25% of the collection has
women in it. the numbers completely dropping we start getting into african-americans and native americans. the challenge is history is history. we cannot rewrite that. but we are making a conscious effort to say who is not in the gallery. that also applies to different disciplines. one of the things we are conscious of, we would like to have more businessmen and businesswomen in the competition. we had the gates. we would like more scientists. this is such a diverse country. the women question is something i often think about. it also comes down to, is there a great work of art? recently, a portrait of someone we wanted in the museum came to light. we thought the picture was horrible. we said, well, and there was a
big argument with our commissioners, who have to approve this. they said, the hell with that. this should be in the portrait gallery. we said, yes, but it is a bad work of art. hopefully something will come around again. we have this exhaustive list of people we want. this is where becomes interesting, between the historians and art historians about what is available, who is there, who is missing. there is always spirited conversation. >> who is going to get here first? >> this will be quick. i just want to pay the highest compliment. 12 of you are engaging and electrifying speakers. you made a gallery that is absolutely irresistible. [applause] i just want to point out >>
benjamin is wearing sandals -- gentleman is wearing sandals. i am taking his complement with a certain amount of skepticism. [laughter] >> i think your project with the national park service is great and really exciting. if there's any way, gas prices are down, i do a little bit of work involving disciplinary with students, you can even get interns to talk about your process of working with the people and places. >> one of the big misconceptions is that we are fully funded by the federal government. it was very interesting, when i got the job, to find out we were being sequestered and getting a 14% cut. the truth is, it is wonderful. you have this amazing building.
the maintenance of this building and a large number of the sellers are covered by government support. but every exhibition, every program we do, every work of art that we conserve, we raise the money for that. so we do rely on our volunteers. we also take very seriously -- i do mentoring young people. teenagers are very deliberate. not just because i have two of my own. but i want my boys thinking about what can of adults they're going to be. i would like to think of the gallery as someplace you can look at people that have gone through life in some ways, that have had to make choices. some good, some bad. nobody has been a saint. we had lance armstrong next to hank aaron. it is an interesting conversation about organized sports and pure pressure to young men.
so we very much want young people to get involved. one of the things we do not have is a lot of diversity in the museum field in terms of minorities. the are also hoping we can start a program where young people will get to work in various departments at the museum. ideally, i would like some young african-american woman or something to take my job in a couple of years. that would be the hope for all of us. that we get that sort of diversey in our major institutions. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> tonight on american history tv, congressman holt -- norton the back of the struggle for civil rights. they discuss thelma's portrayal
of events and the role lyndon johnson played in the civil rights movement. that is tonight just after 9:00 eastern on american history tv. each week, american history tv's real america brings you archival films that tell the story of the 20th century. ♪ >> 3000 pounds plan for a planned assault. it would guarantee $100 monthly to every person over 60. to be financed with a 3% income tax. dr. tauzin, is on hand to lead his followers. now, the battle is on again. the faithful whoop it up for a
tax and spend economy they think will bring prosperity to america. the french national assembly wrestles with postwar problems. and demonstrating radical members of labor unions. they're finally protesting government attempts to freeze prices and wages and stabilize french economy. a series of strikes has been the answer of the large communist party. no holds barred as the police really tangle with a demonstrator who does not know when he is licked. conflicting ideologies makes things constantly tense. in the midst of turmoil and tottering government, there is one spot that never changes. the thames still has fishermen.
addressing a meeting in panel hall in boston, dr. karl compton , president of president truman's commission on military trading, tells why he believes in a program of preparedness for the united states. >> since the united states will not be an aggressor nation, the place and type of war will not be set by the enemy. this means any program must be comprehensive because if there are weak elements of our armor, those will be the points at which a skillful opponent will strike. performing this service to his country can we see any possibility for maintaining our armed forces with strength and reserves adequate to face the possibility of war. if we desire to se