DC at Night

DC at Night

Monday, September 8, 2014

It's Grant vs. Lee Redux @National Portrait Gallery

To showcase one of history's most memorable rivalries, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery tasked its senior historian David C. Ward with the challenge of featuring the Civil War's two most storied generals in its "One Life" gallery. 

The one-room salon is the site where the museum's scholars have previously exhibited the portraits, letters and personal artifacts of such cultural luminaries as Ronald Reagan, Katharine Hepburn, Abraham Lincoln and Sandra Day O'Connor.

Here, the rough and tumble Ulysses S. Grant from Ohio faces off with the southern patrician Robert E. Lee. The room itself seems too small for such large personalities. The photographs, drawings and paintings depicting the lives of these two men seem to pulse with a kind of tension that recalls the horrifying 19th-century era when the country was riven, yet united behind their respective generals—Grant in the North and Lee from the South.

To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in Smithsonian.Com, click here.

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