Eye to I: Self Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery

November 2, 2018 – August 18, 2019

Self-Portrait by Elaine de Kooning, charcoal on paper, 1968. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; the Ruth Bowman and Harry Kahn Twentieth-Century American Self-Portrait Collection © Elaine de Kooning Trust

National Portrait Gallery
8th and G Streets, NW
Washington, DC

2nd Floor, West Galleries

See on Map Floor Plan

Drawing from the National Portrait Gallery’s vast collection of self-portraits, this exhibition explores and thinks critically about how American artists have chosen to portray themselves over the past two centuries. Individuals featured in Eye to I have approached self-portraiture at various points in history, under unique circumstances, and using different tools, but their representations—especially when seen together—all raise important questions about self-perception and self-reflection. Some artists reveal intimate details of their inner lives through self-portraiture, while others use the genre to obfuscate their true selves or invent alter egos. Are we seeing mirror images? Or, are these portrayals refractions of modern identity that reveal artistry rather than personality?

As we are confronted each day with “selfies” via social media, and as we continue to explore the fluidity of contemporary identity, this is an opportune time to reassess the significance of self-portraiture in relation to our country’s history. The exhibition features 60 works, including self-portraits by Chuck Close, Imogen Cunningham, Elaine de Kooning, Jacob Lawrence, Lucas Samaras, Fritz Scholder, Roger Shimomura, Shahzia Sikander, Edward Steichen, and June Wayne. This exhibition is curated by Portrait Gallery Chief Curator, Brandon Fortune.