THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY

The National Portrait Gallery is an art gallery in Washington, D.C., administered by the Smithsonian Institution. Its collections focus on images of famous individual Americans.

It resides in the National Historic Landmarked Old Patent Office Building (now renamed the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture), located just south of Chinatown in the Penn Quarter district of downtown Washington. The third oldest federal building in the city, constructed between 1836 and 1867, the marble and granite museum has porticoes modeled after the Parthenon in Athens, Greece.

The building was used as a hospital during the Civil War. Walt Whitman worked there and used his experiences as a basis for The Wound Dresser. The Bureau of Indian Affairs moved into the building after the war ended. Whitman worked as a clerk for the bureau until 1867, when he was fired after a manuscript of Leaves of Grass was found in his desk.

It was spared from demolition by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958 and given to the Smithsonian, which renovated the structure and opened the National Museum of American Art (later renamed the Smithsonian American Art Museum) and National Portrait Gallery there in 1968. It is the namesake for the Gallery Place Washington Metro station, located across the intersection of F and 8th Streets, Northwest.

Hallmarks of the National Portrait Gallery's permanent collection include the famous "Lansdowne" portrait of George Washington; the Hall of Presidents; and its extensive selection of portraits of remarkable Americans from all walks of life. Since its reopening on July 1, 2006, the Portrait Gallery has also focused on contemporary portraiture in its "Portraiture Now" series, and in its triennial contemporary portrait competition, the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.