CORRESPONDING TEACHER'S TEXT
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The White House Historical Association | Classroom
When it came to decorating the White House, the Executive Mansion was considered a home for much of the 19th century. Presidents and first ladies obtained paintings and sculpture suited to their personal tastes, much as any homeowner would. As the United States grew older, the residents of the White House began to consider that the structure took on the characteristics of a museum, as well as a home. The centennial of 1876 spurred a great pride in America’s past, and this fueled the creation of art that would document the people, places and values that were the ingredients of the American character. During the administration of Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877), the public could come to the White House on weekdays between the hours of 10 and 3 and tour the artworks displayed in the East Room, including the larger-than-life portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. If one obtained a letter from a Congressman, the state parlors would also be available for touring. Americans began to view the White House as a place where important historical events had occurred, and they wanted to experience those spaces.
As is logical, many of the first paintings commissioned or collected were presidential portraits, but since the mid 20th-century the White House has attempted to display a wide range of works by the finest American artists. Highlighted in the Student text are selections from the hundreds of works that make up the White House collection. They represent portraiture, landscape and sculpture. For a look at more selections, visit:
Art in the White House : A Gallery Tour
The White House Art Collection