America’s Smithsonian Institution was founded 175 years ago today, in 1846, with funds from the Englishman James Smithson (1765–1829), in accordance with his wishes: “under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” It is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, with 19 museums and the US National Zoo.
In 2013, Estrellita Karsh gifted to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery more than 100 portraits by Karsh, and the NPG celebrated this gift with their exhibition “Yousuf Karsh: American Portraits.” The exhibition featured “iconic photographs of Americans who have distinguished themselves in fields as diverse as business, medicine, entertainment, politics, and the arts. Among the portraits to be included will be those of artist Georgia O’Keeffe, physician and virologist Jonas Salk, singer Marian Anderson, actress Grace Kelly, businesswoman Elizabeth Arden, architect I.M. Pei, and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. “Yousuf Karsh: American Portraits” will be the museum’s first exhibition devoted entirely to the work of this internationally recognized portrait photographer.” This exhibition went on to travel the US.