Part of the Smithsonian Museums, the National Portrait Gallery remains one of my favorite museums in Washington. It is off the Mall, tucked away at Eighth and F Streets, NW, D.C., (above the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metrorail station – Red, Yellow and Green lines). Free admission, great art, but far enough out of the way to almost guarantee no crowds.
If you Google “National Portrait Gallery,” you also get the gallery of the same name in London, which is not part of the Smithsonian. Another great gallery, but don’t confuse the two.
My continuing search for images of Millard Fillmore turned up this one at the NPG:
The artist is unknown. It’s oil on canvas, and rather a specialty of the NPG — it’s not the official White House portrait. Some of the portraits of presidents come with cheeky commentary or history, since they are not the official portraits usually approved by the president in question himself.
Fillmore’s portrait by an unidentified artist dates from about the time he retired from the House of Representatives in the early 1840s. In the years following, he devoted himself to reconciling the growing differences among fellow Whigs in his native New York State a task for which this hulking and amiable politician was well suited.
Check out the other president’s portraits for a usually different view (Lyndon Johnson hated the portrait the NPG has of him, and Richard Nixon never looked better, nor Thomas Jefferson younger); see what else is there that you might use in the classroom.
The NPG has the added advantage of being a short walk from Washington’s China Town, where we used to dine happily at a restaurant named Szechuan, when such cuisine was rather new in the U.S. Several eateries in the area feature dim sum on Sunday mornings, for those days one would rather commune with good friends over delectable tidbits and a good Sunday newspaper, instead of sitting in a pew. Debra Winstead, a former colleague from the University of Arizona, introduced me to the joy of dim sum in D.C. a few years ago.
Good art, good food, good friends. No wonder Washington is such a livable city these days.