First Ladies of the United States “

The title of the exhibition is taken from a letter written by the First Lady Julia gardiner tyler, who wrote to his mother shortly after marrying the president John tyler in 1844. The Portrait Gallery presentation uses Tyler’s quote as a starting point to examine the responsibilities and importance of first ladies since 1789, when Martha Washington became the first woman to fill the role. The exhibit centers on women who entered the White House as wives as well as other women who were recruited, including sisters, nieces, and family friends, such as Dolley Madison, who served as White House hostess for the widowed president Thomas jefferson. Through the portrait, the exhibition will highlight the stories and personalities of each model, focusing on the myriad of challenges they faced and their greatest accomplishments.

“These remarkable women have generally put aside their personal interest to devote themselves to the responsibilities of ‘first lady’, a complicated and ineligible role that continues to adapt to each viewer,” said Shaw. “The portraits included in this exhibition visualize the difference between these women, revealing fascinating details about the worlds they moved in and the historical moments in which they lived.”

Working closely with the White House and the National First Ladies’ Library, the Portrait Gallery exhibition brings viewers closer to understanding the trials and triumphs of dozens of dynamic women who have embraced, sometimes reluctantly, the duties of hostess. for the president of United States. The selection of portraits and associated ephemera will include paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, engravings and a video installation of photographs by contemporary photographers. Annie leibovitz. The exhibition also includes clothes worn by Mary todd lincoln, Michelle obama, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Nancy reagan.

In addition to displaying some of the most iconic images of First Ladies in the Portrait Gallery’s collection, “Every Eye Is Upon Me” features major loans from the White House, the National First Ladies’ Library, and the Department of US state, as well as several presidential websites and private libraries and collections. This is the largest presentation of portraits of the First Lady to take place outside the White House.

The National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian Books have co-published a richly illustrated book, First ladies of United States, which offers an insightful essay by Shaw in addition to the catalog entries. The publication serves as a companion to the exhibition and takes the same format as the recently published book American presidents (2017). First ladies of United States (2020) is now available for purchase through the museum’s online store and will be widely available for purchase from 1st December. The Portrait Gallery has also launched a new resource website dedicated to First Ladies at

“Every eye is on me: first ladies of United States“is made possible by the support of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, Morgan Stanley, Robert and Arlene Kogod and the generosity of many other donors.

For more information on the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, visit

SOURCE National Portrait Gallery

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