Currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) is the installation “Bound for Freedom’s Light: African Americans and the Civil War,” which showcases portraits of familiar figures such as Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, as well as contemporary news illustrations of lesser-known events. Those who would like to learn more about some of the topics in the exhibit can find information in the excellent resources at the American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library (AA/PG).
Author: Anne Evenhaugen
When wealthy real estate developer William Elmer Harmon founded the Harmon Foundation in 1922, it originally supported causes as varied as playgrounds, biblical films and nursing programs. But it is better known today as one of the first major supporters of African American creativity and ingenuity.
Though American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) worked in every media, he is known best for his wall drawings and series of investigations of lines, colors and shapes. If you have ever been to an exhibition of LeWitt’s wall drawings, you’ll agree there is a sense of awe (“How could someone draw so many tiny straight lines across that entire gallery?”) mixed with a sense of vertigo (“How could someone draw so many tiny straight lines across that entire gallery?”).
Joseph Keppler was the predominant political cartoonist of the late nineteenth century. His creation of the magazine, Puck, in 1877 brought him into a national position that allowed him to influence people’s political views and opinions. The magazine featured cartoon and caricature lithographs created by Keppler. The National Portrait Gallery is fortunate enough to own a few of Keppler’s lithographs from the height of his fame during the early 1880s. However, as a bibliophile, I was far more excited to discover that the American Art and Portrait Gallery Library owns one of the 300 copies of a limited-edition book that features some of Keppler’s best lithographs. Published in 1893, this book served Puck as an advertising tool and as a way to promote Keppler’s lithographs and talent.
This post was contributed by Rachel Blier, an intern for the American Art and Portrait Gallery Library from June to September 2012.
One of my favorite parts of my time at the AA/PG library has been working with the rare books collection. Between the artists’ books, the unusual cartoons and caricatures in the Ray Smith collection, and the occasional doodle or signature from an artist, it’s a very exciting part of the library—and one that an ordinary visitor wouldn’t have the opportunity to see.
Ida Applebroog’s artists’ books have a way of making you feel slightly uncomfortable without really knowing why. At least that is the effect her small books have on me. My first encounter with them had me feeling generally uncertain, thinking not only “What are these things?” but also “Why are these things?” Even after reading several of her books, I still did not understand exactly what her images represented. I had to read about Applebroog’s books to better understand.
–This post was contributed by Kimberly Lesley, American Art and Portrait Gallery Library intern, summer 2012.
This summer I had the opportunity to work on two projects at the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library: evaluating titles from the print reference section and selecting public domain titles for digitization. The majority of time was spent on the former, evaluating once heavily relied upon indexes and reference titles against databases and open access online resources. As I paged through volumes of reference titles I was grateful for the vast amounts of information available online with a few keywords and a couple clicks.