January 05, 2010

National Portrait Gallery

Today I went to the National Portrait Gallery, continuing my Add Imagetourist's trek across the city.

The Portrait Gallery is one of my favorite museums in the city, mostly because there are all these incredible people, and you just have to look at them and realize that they're constituted exactly the same way as you are, no better or worse, just the same. It's really something. I spent an hour and a half in there, all of which I spent in the presidents section. I can't help it. The first thing you see when you walk in is Gilbert's Washington, which in person is this huge, larger than life, incredible thing. And I just stared at it, standing in the middle of the museum, looking up at him, this man, constituted the same way I am, that stood there and stood there in order to get this huge, larger than life, incredible thing painted. And you think about it, about the history, about who he was, and it's just. It's breathtaking, really. I link you to that image, so you know what I'm talking about, but part of me wants to not do that, since it's nothing really, next to the portrait in person. But what art is, I guess.

And there's that picture of Lincoln. You know the one, where the negative cracked, and there's a line across the top of this head? It's haunting. And unlike Gilbert's Washington, which is an interpretation, a likeness (and one that was not regarded as his 'best' likeness, if 'best' means most accurate), this IS Lincoln. It's photography. And you look at him, and you just have to think about what he did, what he became.

And there's W. I love his portrait, I really do, because look at him. He's...he's just a guy. He could be your dad. All the other presidents chose to do very formal looks (Reagan comes to mind), but here he is, slouched over on a couch, unassuming, not even in a tie. It's just... I don't know, I really like it. It's really very "George" and not very "President Bush." And I like George. I think he seems funny and goofy and like someone I'd have a burger and beer with.

There's also a reel of some of the speeches from recent presidents, including President Bush, and that really ruins the spirit of his portrait. And also makes me really grateful, once again, for November 4, 2008.

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