The Tommie L. Pegues and Donald A. Capoccia Conversation Series

This series explores LGBTQ+ representation in portraiture. Invited artists and scholars present on topics that illuminate LGBTQ+ artists, sitters, and communities in the United States, both historic and contemporary.

Edgar P. Richardson Symposium

The Edgar P. Richardson Symposium is a biennial conference that provides an opportunity for both scholars and the public to study and critically discuss American portraiture. It alternates yearly with the biennial Director’s Essay Prize. 

The Director’s Essay Prize

The Director’s Essay Prize seeks to develop research and scholarship related to the intersection of history, biography, and American portraiture in global contexts. It is awarded to a scholar biennially, in tandem with Scholar Day. An outside jury of three scholars selects the winning essay. The award is announced in the spring. Prize winners are expected to deliver a public lecture at the National Portrait Gallery in the fall.

Greenberg Steinhauser Forum in American Portraiture

This conversation-oriented forum provides specialists with the opportunity to investigate original objects and to engage in scholarly dialogue.

Scholar Day

Scholar Day provides two scholars with the opportunity to receive critical feedback on manuscripts in progress that address history, biography, and/or American portraiture. Members of the National Portrait Gallery’s curatorial team and local scholars, the winner of the Director’s Essay Prize, and local scholars read the drafts prior to meeting digitally via Zoom with author to conduct a positive, constructive workshop. Scholar Day concludes with a public keynote lecture by the Director’s Essay Prize winner.

>>See details about how to apply


PORTAL, the National Portrait Gallery’s Scholarly Center, promotes the study of American portraiture and visual biography. Increasingly interdisciplinary, the field of American portraiture nevertheless remains underdeveloped in the United States. We especially seek to support analyses of the production of portraits, their uses, and their cultural meanings within global contexts.

PORTAL fosters engagement with portraiture through the coordination of discussions, new research, and scholarly publications on portraiture in all media and within various social and cultural contexts. Its symposia, fellowships, online programming, and research situate American portraiture and visual biography within larger social, historical, economic, and political frameworks.


Kate Clarke Lemay, acting senior historian at the National Portrait Gallery, directs PORTAL. 


  • Kent Blansett, University of Kansas
  • Julio Capó, Jr, Florida International University
  • Martha S. Jones, Johns Hopkins University
  • John Stauffer, Harvard University
  • Rebecca VanDiver, Vanderbilt University
  • ShiPu Wang, University of California, Merced