February 22, 1969 “The Nineteenth Century Gallery of Distinguished Americans” opens at the National Portrait Gallery.
In this exhibition of art of the Jacksonian era produced by one of the finest engravers and portraitists of the 19th century, James Barton Longacre, the National Portrait Gallery acknowledges its 130-year-old debt to a publication, “The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans” (1834-39). In 1831, James Herring, a portrait painter and promoter of the arts, persuaded the American Academy of Fine Arts to support the publication of the book. His partner in the venture was James Barton Longacre, a well-known Philadelphia engraver who, from 1844 until his death, was Chief Engraver to the United States Mint. The publication was to build “a monument of national gratitude … and indicate to the world the high destiny of the republic” through portraits and biographies of great Americans. It was hoped that the portraits would be collected at the Academy for the use of artists and scholars—a goal not realized until the 1968 opening of the National Portrait Gallery.
Posted: 22 February 2018