From George Washington to George Carlin, Sequoyah to Rosa Parks, James Monroe to Marilyn Monroe, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery is home to the icons of our nation’s history and culture. It tells the diverse story of America through its individuals.

Opening in 1968, the Portrait Gallery’s original charter was to collect and display images of “men and women who have made significant contributions to the history, development and culture of the people of the United States.” Today, the Portrait Gallery presents an array of exhibitions that explore how the art of portraiture illuminates a defining feature of American life: the powerful presence of individuals acting within—and sometimes against—the society in which they lived and worked.

The museum has a vigorous schedule of special exhibitions that rotate throughout each year. Long-term permanent collection exhibitions include “America’s Presidents,” “American Origins,” “Twentieth-Century Americans,” and “The Struggle for Justice”; a gallery titled “One Life,” dedicated to the biography of a single individual; a triennial portrait competition open to artists all over America; the “Portraiture Now” series, showcasing some of the most creative 21st- century portrait artists; and “Identity,” the Portrait Gallery’s first-ever performance art series.

The National Portrait Gallery is the only museum of its kind in the United States to reflect the connection between American history, biography and art. Join now to discover the nation’s story through the people who’ve shaped it!

This post is brought to you by the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery.