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Art in the Government
Sculptures - The Senate maintains over 80 sculptures carved by some of America's preeminent artists, commemorating many of the great figures of our national history.
Paintings - The Senate maintains over 70 paintings created by some of America's preeminent artists, commemorating many of the great persons and events of our national history.
Graphic Arts - The Senate maintains a collection of over 900 historical prints and engravings. This collection contains a rich array of 19th and early 20th century images portraying the events, people, and settings of the U.S. Senate.
Special Art Collections
"I Do Solemnly Swear": A Half Century of Inaugural Images
This exhibit features the historic engravings in the U.S. Senate Collection that depict inaugural festivities at the Capitol and around Washington, D.C. It begins with the 1853 inauguration, when the great 19th century weekly news magazines began to come into their own, and ends with 1905, a time when photographic techniques had largely overtaken the use of engraved images in news periodicals.
Presidential Inaugurations: Invitations and Tickets in the U.S. Senate Collection - The Office of Senate Curator's inaugural collection currently contains approximately 1,900 items relating to inaugurations from Franklin Pierce (1853) to George W. Bush (2005). This exhibit focuses on the Senate’s collection of presidential inaugural ceremony invitations and tickets.
Since 1985, under the guidance of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, the Office of Senate Curator has been responsible for finding a painting to serve as a backdrop for the head table of the President and Vice President at the inaugural luncheon. Click on the images below to learn more about the inaugural luncheon art.
Senate Vice Presidential Bust Collection
A mainstay of the Senate’s fine art is the Vice Presidential Bust Collection. The Joint Committee on the Library, acting under a resolution of May 13, 1886, began commissioning busts of the vice presidents to occupy the niches in the new Senate Chamber. After the first busts filled the 20 niches that surround the Chamber, new additions were placed throughout the Senate wing of the Capitol.
The collection chronicles the individuals who have served as vice president and pays tribute to their role as president of the Senate. It also provides a unique survey of American sculpture from the 19th century to the present. The initial five commissions included busts of the first two vice presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and three former vice presidents then living, Hannibal Hamlin, William Wheeler, and Chester A. Arthur.
As directed by the resolution of 1886, additional representations were added to the collection until the twenty existing gallery niches in the Senate chamber had been filled. The original resolution was amended on January 6, 1898, in order to provide for placement of additional vice presidential busts throughout the Senate wing of the Capitol.
The Vice Presidential Bust Collection contains works by such premier American artists as Daniel Chester French, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Franklin Simmons, and James Earle Fraser.