Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery Hosts the Symposium “New Perspectives on Portraiture”

Two-Day Edgar P. Richardson Symposium To Be Held Sept. 20 and 21
July 17, 2018
News Release
Social Media Share Tools
Book cover for "Beyond the Face"

The National Portrait Gallery’s Scholarly Center, PORTAL = Portraiture + Analysis, has announced the Edgar P. Richardson Symposium “New Perspectives on Portraiture” to be held in the museum’s Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium Sept. 20 and 21. The two-day event will bring together scholars whose work expands people’s perceptions of the diversity and complexity of portrayal in portraits. Speakers will investigate the power dynamics between artists and their sitters, the manipulation and evolution of portraits as physical objects, the dissemination of images and other aspects of this artistic genre.

Portraits are subject to the vagaries of time and place, physical change, translocation and new modes of interpretation and display. The National Portrait Gallery’s 50th anniversary provides an opportunity to assess the study of portraiture. Recent scholarship has revived an interest in analyzing a genre clearly distinct in many ways from other art forms. As images, likenesses reflect codes of behavior, social and political environments, and the visual rhetoric of their day. Portraits reference issues of identity and subjectivity, such as gender, race and ethnicity.

The symposium will feature a panel of scholars from around the country who will offer insight from their areas of expertise on the evolution of portraiture and its influence on the nation’s identity. The two days of programming will conclude with a book signing and public reception in the museum’s Kogod Courtyard. Registration for the free symposium is available at

The Edgar P. Richardson Symposium is hosted biennially by PORTAL, the Portrait Gallery’s Scholarly Center, with the Edgar P. Richardson Symposium Fund. For a complete schedule of speakers, see below.

The two-day program coincides with the release of the new publication by the National Portrait Gallery in association with D Giles Limited, London, titled Beyond the Face: New Perspectives on Portraiture. The richly illustrated volume presents 16 essays by leading scholars who explore the subtle means by which artists—and subjects—convey a sense of identity and reveal historical context. Examining a wide range of topics, from early caricature and political vandalism of portraits to contemporary selfies and performance art, these studies challenge people’s traditional assumptions about portraiture. By exploring the diversity and complexity of portrayal, Beyond the Face: New Perspectives on Portraiture fills a gap in current scholarship and offers a resource for teaching art history, subjectivity and the construction of identity. Beginning Sept. 1, the book will be available for purchase at the National Portrait Gallery store and online.


Thursday, Sept. 20
Session 1:       Materiality and the Profession of Portraiture

Individual presentations to be followed by panel discussion moderated by Kim Sajet, director, Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

Lauren Lessing, Mirken Director, University of Iowa Museum of Art
Nina Roth-Wells, paintings conservator
Terri Sabatos, associate professor of art history, Longwood University
“Body Politics: Copley’s Portraits as Political Effigies During the American Revolution”

Jennifer Van Horn, assistant professor of art history and history, University of Delaware
“Prince Demah and the Profession of Portrait Painting”

Juanita Solano Roa, Ph.D. candidate, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
“The Other’s Other: Portrait Photography in Latin America, 1890–1930”

Taína Caragol, curator of painting and sculpture and Latino art and history, Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery
“Meaningful (Dis) placements: The Portrait of Luis Muñoz Marín by Francisco Rodón at the National Portrait Gallery”

Session 2:       Dissemination: Furthering Social, Political, Economic and Religious Agendas

Individual presentations to be followed by panel discussion moderated by Wendy Wick Reaves, curator emerita of prints and drawings, Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

Ross Barrett, associate professor of American art, Boston University
“‘Capital Likenesses’: George Washington, the Federal City, and Economic Selfhood in American Portraiture”

Allison M. Stagg, visiting lecturer in American art history, Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
“Caricature Portraits and Early American Identity”

Kate Clarke Lemay, historian and director of PORTAL, the Portrait Gallery’s Scholarly Center, Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery
“Reconstruction Reconsidered: The Gordon Collection of the National Portrait Gallery”

Christopher Allison, collegiate assistant professor in the humanities, affiliate faculty member in the Departments of History and Art History, University of Chicago
“Cloud of Witnesses: Painting History Through Combinative Portraiture”

Friday, Sept. 21
Session 3:       Reassessing Subjectivity

Individual presentations to be followed by panel discussion moderated by Kate Clarke Lemay, historian and director of PORTAL, the Portrait Gallery’s Scholarly Center, Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

Akela Reason, associate professor of history, University of Georgia
“Soul-Searching: The Portrait in Gilded Age America”

Amy M. Mooney, associate professor of art and art history, Columbia College, Chicago
“Photos of Style and Dignity: Woodard’s Studios and the Delivery of Black Modern Subjectivity”

Jonathan Frederick Walz, director of curatorial affairs and curator of American art, The Columbus Museum
“Side Eye: Early Twentieth-Century American Portraiture on the Periphery”

Richard H. Saunders, director, Middlebury College Museum of Art, and professor of history of art and architecture, Middlebury College
“Making Sense of Our Selfie Nation”

Session 4:       Theatricality, Performativity, and Play

Individual presentations to be followed by panel discussion moderated by Asma Naeem, curator of prints, drawings and media arts, Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

Erin Pauwels, assistant professor of art history, Temple University
“‘Let Me Take Your Head’: Photographic Portraiture and the Gilded Age Celebrity Image”

ShiPu Wang, professor of art history and founding faculty of the Global Arts Studies Program, University of California, Merced
“Playing Against Type: Frank Matsura’s Photographic Performances”

Anne Collins Goodyear, co-director, Bowdoin College Museum of Art
“Call it a Little Game Between ‘I’ and ‘Me’: Mar/Cel Duchamp in the Wilson-Lincoln System”

Nikki A. Greene, assistant professor of art history, Wellesley College
“Habla LAMADRE: María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Carrie Mae Weems, and Black Feminist Performance”

Reception and Book Signing

National Portrait Gallery

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of the United States through the individuals who have shaped American culture. Spanning the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists, whose lives tell the American story.

The National Portrait Gallery is part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture at Eighth and F streets N.W., Washington, D.C. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Connect with the museum at, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and the museum’s blog.

# # #


Solo Medios 

Concetta Duncan