Private Tour of the National Portrait Gallery & Smithsonian Art Museum
Walks are held rain or shine with some variations to accommodate the weather.
If you are running late for your meeting with our guide, we ask that you call to alert us so that we can relay the message to the guide.
Museums and monuments can sometimes close without notice due to labor strikes, structural problems, or other civic disturbances.
The docent who leads a given walk may become unavailable at the last minute due to illness or other unforeseen circumstance. In these cases we will seek to re-organize the walk to accommodate the change; however, our responsibility in these cases is limited and we cannot be held liable for circumstances beyond our control. Price of the tour does not include entrance fees, meals or necessary transportations. These will be paid on the spot by the participants.
Tour Participation Requirements
Special Medical Restriction
This tour of the Smithsonian's two quintessential art museums takes place in a structure that is a work of art in itself: a majestic Greek Revival structure built between 1836 and 1868 that Walt Whitman called "that noblest of Washington buildings." Like the works inside, it's a piece of living history. It's been home to the Patent Office and various bureaus of the Department of the Interior, was used as a military hospital and barracks during the Civil War, and even hosted Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural ball in 1865. Saved from demolition by Congress in the 1950s, the building opened to the public as the Smithsonian Institution's American art wings in 1968.
We begin at the National Portrait Gallery, discussing the facts and myths, the images and the reality, behind some of the most iconic personalities in American history. You'll learn the significance of the rainbow in in Gilbert Stuart's famous portrait of George Washington, and why portraitist Joseph Siffred Duplessis painted Benjamin Franklin in a plain grey coat. Believe it or not, such small details tells tell big stories, and helped shape the way generations of Americans perceived a shared national heritage.
We then turn to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the oldest federal collection of art in Washington. SAAM's galleries brim with historically significant paintings by masters like Charles Willson Peale, John Singleton Copley, Edmonia Lewis, John Singer Sargent, and the Hudson River School, as well as sculptures and other art object by Andrew Wyeth, Jenny Holzer, Nam June Paik, and others.
Led by an art historian, this experience is, indeed, equal parts art and history – a visual biography of the American identity.
Choose your date and time very carefully. Only a portion of this tour is refundable from the time of booking; within 72 hours of operation, it is fully non-refundable.