National Portrait Gallery Announces Director’s Essay Prize & Scholar Day for 2022

National Portrait Gallery Opens Applications for Director’s Essay Prize & Scholar Day

Photo by Matailong Du/National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

The Director’s Essay Prize

Established in 2019, the Director’s Essay Prize fosters leading research in the field of visual biography and American portraiture. The award includes a cash prize of $3,000 for the author of a published essay that explores and enriches the interdisciplinary nature of American art, biography, history, and cultural identity. The recipient will be asked to present a paper on their essay topic at the National Portrait Gallery during an award ceremony in Fall 2022.

To qualify, scholarly essays must have been published in print or online within the past three years. The award is by nomination only, and authors and publishers may not self-nominate.

The deadline for nominations is March 7, 2022 at 5pm (ET). For details on how to nominate an essay, visit

Scholar Day

The National Portrait Gallery will select two scholars to receive critical, constructive feedback on pre-circulated samples of writing drafts through a virtual workshop held via Zoom on the morning of Friday, September 2, 2022.

The workshop, which will convene Portrait Gallery curators and historians as well as outside scholars, seeks to nurture and support the development of scholarly works to enrich the field of portraiture and visual biography. We invite submissions of writing that challenge the field of portraiture and explore categories of race, class, gender, and/or ethnicity.

The deadline for applications is March 7, 2022 at 5pm (ET). For details on how to apply, visit
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