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Rules Governing Copying Works of Art 2010


Permits for copying are a privilege and are issued by the Curatorial Department associated with the medium to be copied; this will most often be the Department of Painting and Sculpture. Only works of art owned by the National Portrait Gallery may be copied. Only works from the permanent collection that are currently on view may be copied. No works by living artists or depicting living subjects may be copied, and other twentieth-century portraits may not be available for copying due to copyright and personality rights restrictions.

Due to the numbers of visitors in the museum, no copying is allowed in Americaís Presidents or in the corridors.

Copying with dry media such as pencil, chalk or pastel, does not require a permit unless an easel is used.

Permits are required for copying in oil or other liquid media, and/or if the copyist plans to use an easel. The permit is obtained from the Curator of Painting and Sculpture at least ten days in advance, and is valid for thirty (30) calendar days from date of issue. The copyist will submit a detailed schedule to the Office of the Registrar after receiving a permit. A new permit must be obtained for each work of art to be copied (see downloadable permit form at right). Only one work may be copied at a time.


Copying is permitted in the National Portrait Gallery on weekdays (Monday through Friday) from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Copying is not permitted on the weekends.

m No copyist or other person may offer any painting for sale on the premises of the gallery, or solicit commissions of employment to copy paintings while on the premises.


A person applying for the first time to copy a work of art, in oil or other liquid medium, must present the following items to the Curatorís office:

  1. Two letters of reference regarding artistic proficiency.
  2. Digital jpegs of his or her work
  3. Suitable identification, such as a driverís license
  4. Persons who are registered as qualified copyists at the National Gallery of Art need only produce the copyistís permit from that institution.
  5. The copyist must provide an easel, stool and drop cloth. It is not possible to store this equipment, or the copy, overnight, or for an extended period during the day. The permit will serve as a property pass to be shown to guards for removal of property.
  6. The copies must be at least two inches smaller or larger than the original painting, in both dimensions (height and width). No copy may exceed 40 inches in either dimension.
  7. A weekly schedule must be established and approved by the Registrarís office at least seven days in advance of the starting date.


  1. Easels must be placed no closer than 4 feet from the painting to be copied.
  2. Precautions must be taken to ensure that all materials are handled in a safe manner so as to protect the works of art, furniture, floors, carpets, and walls.
  3. Spray fixatives may not be used anywhere within the galleries where there are works of art.
  4. Only one copyist at a time is permitted to work in any gallery.
  5. Please notify the registrarís office if the copyist will not be working on any of the reserved days. Registrar will periodically check on copyist while on premises to see that the procedures are being followed.
  6. When the copy is finished, the Registrarís office and the Curatorís office must be informed. A representative from one of these offices will inspect the copy and clear the permit for removal of the copy from the building The copy must be clearly marked on the canvas as a copy.

The National Portrait Gallery reserves the right to cancel or refuse to issue a permit to copy a work of art for violation of any of the above rules or for any other reason.

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For information regarding
the copyist policy at the National Portrait Gallery please contact:
Brandon B. Fortune
Curator of Painting and Sculpture


Phone: 202 633 8311


John McMahon


Phone: 202 633 8284



Please complete the attached form and email it to the individuals above.

Copyist application

The application can also be mailed to the following

Curator of Painting and Sculpture
National Portrait Gallery
P.O. Box 37012
Victor Buiding Suite 410
MRC 973
Washington, DC 20013-7012


View the original image.