Pride of the American nation, the White House collection of fine arts
owes its existence to the scores of individuals and organizations that have
nurtured and supported it. They have been diverse in outlook, taste and
purpose, but their vision and generosity have given coherence to the collection
as a whole.
First Ladies, including even the Washingtons, though they never occupied
the Executive Mansion, have in
one way or another made significant contributions.
Gilbert Stuart's idealized
portrait of the first President (at right), cornerstone of the collection, both
inspires us and evokes calm assurance of national community.
First Ladies of recent decades deserve great credit for much of the art
featured in this collection on-line.
Jacqueline Kennedy set
the goal of collecting works by the country's finest artists.
Lady Bird Johnson
enthusiastically continued that pursuit.
Patricia Nixon's efforts
added 18 portraits to Presidents and First Ladies.
Nancy Reagan, and
Barbara Bush also have
taken a special interest in the history of the mansion. And First Lady
Hillary Clinton has also
made substantial contributions of time and energy to the promotion of art in
the White House. In fact, the White House has hosted two exhibitions of
twentieth century American sculpture in her term thus far. One of those exhibitions is
available on-line. Each recent First Lady has worked tirelessly to encourage
contributions of funds and gifts of art.
They, and the collection itself, have been immeasurably helped by
former curators of the White House--Lorraine Pearce, William Elder, James
Ketchum, and Clement Conger--and by the present associate curator, Betty
Monkman, and other members of the curatorial staff. From the care of the White
House paintings to the authentication of new acquisitions, these experts have
implemented professional standards worthy of the best museums.
Exceptional contributions of time, knowledge, and personal resources on
the collection's behalf have come from three men: the late James W. Fosburgh,
an original member of Mrs. Kennedy's Fine Arts Committee for the White House;
Robert L McNeill, Jr., a longtime member of the Committee for the Preservation
of the White House; and the late Dr. Melvin Payne, Chairman of the Board of the
National Geographic Society, which cooperated with the White House Historical
Association in the publication of the book upon which this on-line collection
is based and other books about the presidential residence. The Association,
chartered in 1961, has been a major benefactor, making possible the acquisition
of dozens of works of art. Today it continues to "enhance understanding,
appreciation and enjoyment of the Executive Mansion".