Millard Fillmore at the National Portrait Gallery

September 11, 2007

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:

Millard Fillmore at the NPG, unnamed artist, circa 1840

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.

“Hulking?”

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.


September 11 blogging

September 11, 2007

Three or four times I’ve started out to look at events of September 11, today.  Apart from my understanding that too much action was started in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, without understanding the history of the people involved, the nations involved, or the people to be involved in future action, the posts all dissolve into rant.

Anger makes it difficult to say anything erudite, or informative.  Maybe later.

I would like to hear from teachers who dealt with kids today.  It was six years ago — high school students, and perhaps 7th and 8th graders, have great interest in the World Trade Center bombings, and often those interests produce questions that go unanswered.  In one six-week period, I had a woman (now graduated) who complained that we didn’t spend enough time on the event — a week would have been appropriate, she thought, in a course that covered from 1900 to 2005 in six weeks.

What are your students’ concerns.  What do you do in class to commemorate the events, or to teach from the events, and what do you wish you could do?

Comments are open.


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