Walt Whitman, 1819-1892

Mathew Brady Studio
Albumen silver print,
(carte de visite), circa 1870
National Portrait Gallery,
Smithsonian Institution,
Washington, DC

Walt Whitman and Mathew Brady were close contemporaries. Both began their careers in New York in the years before the Civil War, and came to Washington during wartime. Both were acknowledged pioneers who used their art to express the distinctive virtues of the American nation. Brady made this portrait of Whitman in his Washington studio, which was located on Pennsylvania Avenue near Seventh Street, a few blocks from this building.

In January 1889, while talking to his biographer, Walt Whitman recalled, "Brady had galleries in Washington: his headquarters were in New York. We had many a talk together: the point was, how much better it would often be, rather than having a lot of contradictory records by witnesses or historians . . . if we could have three or four or half a dozen portraits--very accurate--of the men: that would be history--the best history--a history from which there could be no appeal."

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