Harriet Lane Johnston

image for Harriet Lane Johnston
Luce Center Label
In 1841, U.S. senator James Buchanan became the guardian of his niece Harriet Lane (1830-1903), who had lost both of her parents. As she matured, Harriet’s sharp wit, sociability, and good looks made her a political asset. When the bachelor Buchanan was elected president of the United States in 1856, Harriet became the official hostess of the White House. In her new capacity, she entertained artists and supported them in their efforts to establish a national art museum. She also welcomed international guests to Washington, including Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales. In 1866 she married Baltimore banker Henry Elliott Johnston and together they amassed an important art collection, which she bequeathed to “a national gallery of art.” William Henry Rinehart undercuts the cold formality of some nineteenth-century portrait busts by presenting Harriet smiling, with her hair delicately swept back in ribbons to convey her warmth and elegance.
Luce Object Quote
“Mrs. Johnston has held the highest social position an American woman can hold, both in this country and in England, and she is a high-bred woman, of stately manner and beautiful personality.” Los Angeles Times, 1887
William Henry Rinehart, born Union Bridge, MD 1825-died Rome, Italy 1874
Harriet Lane Johnston
Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Harriet Lane Johnston
See more items in
Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Painting and Sculpture
On View
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, 17A
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor
Object number
Portrait female\bust
28 x 18 7/8 x 12 5/8 in. (71.2 x 48.0 x 32.1 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum