Smithsonian’s Portraits of Pittsburgh: Works from the National Portrait Gallery

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Explore powerful works of art from the Smithsonian as part of a dynamic new exhibition at the History Center.

The Smithsonian’s Portraits of Pittsburgh: Works from the National Portrait Gallery exhibition at the History Center features original paintings, sketches, prints, and photographs that showcase more than 100 Americans with Western Pennsylvania connections.

It’s one of the largest loans of artwork ever shared by the prestigious National Portrait Gallery, which is the only museum in the U.S. dedicated solely to portraiture and draws more than a million visitors each year.

The Portraits of Pittsburgh exhibition showcases portraits of those individuals who exemplify the innovations, challenges, and motivations that have shaped this region.

It features musicians, actors, and entertainers such as Lena Horne, Gene Kelly, Martha Graham, and Mary Lou Williams; trailblazing journalists and innovators such as Jane Grey Swisshelm, George Westinghouse, Jonas Salk, and Gertrude Stein; and world-class athletes like Josh Gibson, Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, and Roberto Clemente.

More than just paintings on a wall, the Portraits of Pittsburgh exhibition examines how portraiture identifies and questions changing beliefs about who is important in American culture. As such, the exhibit assesses which prominent Pittsburghers aren’t among the National Portrait Gallery’s collection and ask visitors the important question: Who do you think should be included?

The Smithsonian’s Portraits of Pittsburgh exhibition also features select paintings and artifacts from the History Center’s collection, including Gene Kelly’s plaid wool suit from the iconic film “Singin’ in the Rain” and the dagger used in the failed assassination attempt on Henry Clay Frick.

Portraits GuidiGO Self-Guided-TourReading Smithsonian’s Portraits of Pittsburgh
a GuidiGO tour by HeinzHistoryCenter

Interested in learning more about portraiture? Try a self-guided tour that will introduce you to the skills of close looking to discover the stories within the portraits.

To get started:

  • Download GuidiGO – available in the Apple App Store and Google play
  • Check out the tours we offer by searching – HeinzHistoryCenter
  • Select Reading Smithsonian’s Portraits of Pittsburgh and click the “free” button
  • Create and account or log in and you’re ready to go!
Education: Programs

Votes for Women: Portraits of Persistence
Thursday, Aug. 20 | 7 p.m.
Virtual program, presented on Zoom

See and Do Family Program: Martha Graham with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Tuesday, Sept. 1 | 3 p.m.
Virtual program, presented on YouTube Live

Behind the Portrait Video Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

The Smithsonian’s Portraits of Pittsburgh exhibit is sponsored by Quentin and Evelyn T. Cunningham Fund and the W. Paul Spencer Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation with support from BNY Mellon, PNC Bank, and UPMC.  Additional Funding for exhibits and funding provided by The Heinz Endowments and the Richard King Mellon Foundation and supported by the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD).

The Pittsburgh Foundation