National Portrait Gallery Commission (U.S.) Search this
38 cu. ft. (38 record storage boxes)
1964-1990, with related material from 1937
The records document the history and routine operations of the NPG since 1937 when the National Gallery of Art Commission was the designated official body to accept donations of portraits for the Gallery's future opening. The United States Congress officially established the National Portrait Gallery in 1962 as a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution, "a free and public museum for the exhibition and study of portraiture and statuary depicting men and women who have made significant contributions to the history, development, and culture of the people of the United States, and of the artists who created such portraiture and statuary."
The Smithsonian Board of Regents appointed the first NPG Commission in 1963, which elected John Nicholas Brown as its Chairman. The Commission's two main objectives for the NPG were based on its congressional mandate: the acquisition and exhibition of portraits and statuary of those who have made significant contributions to the history, development, and culture of the United States; and the establishment of the Gallery as a research centre for American biography, iconography, and history. Before the appointed of the Gallery's first Director in 1964, the Commission established guidelines for accepting portraits, among which were the best likeness possible; original portraits from life, if possible; exhibitions of the United States Presidents and First Ladies as well as permanent collection portraits of subjects who have been dead for at least ten years.
For a description of the record series of which these materials are a part, refer to "Forms part of" above.
(1) Office of the Director, 1964-1985, accession number 86-090; (2) Office of the Director, 1965-1986, accession number 87-061; (3) Office of the Director, 1971-1985, accession number 87-069; (4) Office of the Director, 1937-1976, accession number 87-168; (5) Office of the Director, 1975-1987, accession number 88-167; (6) Office of the Director, circa 1965-1985, accession number 90-043; (7) Office of the Director, 1959, 1969-1990, accession number 92-061; (8) Office of the Director, circa 1972-1990, accession number 93-025
These records document the administrations of Directors Charles Nagel, 1964-1969; Marvin Sadik, 1969-1981; and Alan M. Fern 1982- .
Appointed in 1964, Charles Nagel initiated programs to provide a research center for American biography, iconography, and history. To achieve this objective, he established the Catalog of American Portraits and the Charles Willson Peale Papers. During his tenure, Nagel acquired small collections such as portraits set aside by Andrew Mellon, to be transferred to a national portrait gallery once one was established, transfers from the National Museum of History and Technology, and the National Collection of Fine Arts. In addition to documenting these actions, the records also contain information about NPG's move from the Arts and Industries Building in 1967 to its present quarters in the old Patent Office Building.
Records for the tenures of Marvin Sadik and Alan M. Fern mostly document major programmatic innovations, such as the Living Self-Portrait and Portrait in Motion series, as well as general expansion in the Gallery's educational, scholarly, and acquisition activities. The records also document exhibition schedules, the donation in 1974 of Paul Mellon's 761 engraved portraits by C. B. J. F. de Saint-Memin, the donation by Time, Incorporated, of 850 pieces of art used on Time magazine covers, and the 5,419 glass negatives from the Mathew Brady Studio, which were acquired in 1981 from the Frederick Hill Meserve Collection.
This record unit contains internal correspondence between the Directors and NPG staff; correspondence with other Smithsonian bureaus as well with local, national, and international art institutions and artists; numerous public inquiries about artists, works of art, exhibitions, donations of art and bequests; color and black and white photographs; exhibition records including exhibition designs, catalogs, installation photographs, checklists, names and addresses of financial and art donors, shipping and loan forms, insurance forms, reports concerning the security of the collections and the Gallery, and condition reports which mostly document loan exhibitions; information about new acquisitions; and NPG committee minutes.
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507; 600 Maryland Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20024-2520