Best Iconic Works Of Art In DC

April 16, 2012 6:00 AM

The nation’s capital is filled with some of the most iconic and historic images found anywhere in the world. There stands an unending list of symbolic artwork, paintings and sculptures representing many aspects of our nation. Below is a list of five iconic works that exemplify some of the most pivotal events in U.S. history, but as anyone who lives or has visited D.C. knows, one could spend an eternity exploring all of the unique art this city has to offer.
obamaposter Best Iconic Works Of Art In DC

(credit: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Obama 2008 Campaign Poster
Smithsonian Museum of American History
1400 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20560
(202) 633-1000

Price: Free
Hours: Daily – 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

It might be only a few years old, but U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign poster is definitely one of the most influential and recognizable images of the 21st Century. The then-Illinois senator had no idea how popular this image would become, and neither did the poster’s creator. Creator Shepard Fairey has been called a visionary and pioneer of effective political propaganda by numerous media outlets.  Whether you like him or not, this campaign poster has been duplicated, re-produced and downloaded by thousands. You can find a copy of the image at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Related: Best Unique Museums In DC

rosietheriveter Best Iconic Works Of Art In DC

(credit: Library of Congress)

Rosie the Riveter
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave SE
Washington, D.C. 20540
(202) 707-5000

Price: Free
Hours: Mon to Sat – 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sun – Closed

The iconic “Rosie the Riveter” campaign was spearheaded by the men who abandoned factories for the waters of the Pacific during World War II. The famous poster was created by J. Howard Miller in 1942. While the men were away, women took charge, and for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, went to work in America’s factories and refineries. “Rosie the Riveter” represented the no-nonsense woman, acting as an inspiration for thousands. Currently, the image is used by feminist organizations around the world. You can see a photo of a modern-day “Rosie” at the Library of Congress.

unclesam Best Iconic Works Of Art In DC

(credit: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division)

U.S. Army’s Uncle Sam 
Smithsonian Museum of American History
1400 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20560
(202) 633-1000

Price: Free
Hours: Daily – 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The “I Want YOU for US Army” poster is known world wide. Many say the expression of Uncle Sam fully conveys the desires of the U.S. military in 1917. The image was created by J.M. Flagg, and was inspired by a British poster created three years earlier. The concept of Uncle Sam was believed to have first been used in the War of 1812, but the 1917 poster was the first image of this concept. You can see a copy of the 1917 poster at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

lansdowneportrait Best Iconic Works Of Art In DC


The Lansdowne Portrait 
National Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution
800 F St NW
Washington, DC 20565
(202) 842-6690

Price:  Free
Hours: Mon to Sat – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sun – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

During the War of 1812 and the British Army’s burning of the White House, the Lansdowne portrait became a part of American history. The painting was created by American artist Gilbert Stuart and was commissioned through Pennsylvania U.S. Senator William Bingham. It was later given to American sympathizer William Petty, the second Earl of Shelbourne and first Marquess of Lansdowne. The painting was moved to the White House shortly after this shuffle. Prior to the war, this impressive oil painting of the new nation’s first president had no major historic significance, but that quickly changed. Just moments before the British raided the White House, Madison ordered that particular items be removed, the Lansdowne portrait being one of those items that escaped British invasion. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation bought the portrait in 2001 for $30 million, and it now lives as a permanent exhibit at the National Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution.

Related: Best Impressionist Art In DC

lincolnstatue Best Iconic Works Of Art In DC

(credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The Lincoln Statue 
Lincoln Memorial
900 Ohio Drive SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 426-6841

Price: Free
Hours: Public may visit 24/7, but rangers are only available 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.

This statue of President Abraham Lincoln is known around the world. The Lincoln Memorial is located on 23rd Street, between Independence and Constitution Avenues, but the memorial’s physical office is on Ohio Drive. The statue was a four-year project, carved by the Piccirilli Brothers under the supervision of master sculptor Daniel Chester French. It was originally meant to be 10 feet tall, but eventually was increased to 19 feet, weighing in at approximately 175 tons. If Lincoln stood, he would tower at 28 feet high. The seat is made of Tennessee marble and is 10 feet tall. In government documents, French says his inspiration came from eyewitness descriptions of Lincoln and reviewed castings of Lincoln’s hands. When visiting, notice how his hands are formed in the sign language versions of his initials. Many believe that French did this on purpose due to his familiarity with American sign language and in honor of his deaf son.

Reginald Johnson is a dedicated writer in the Washington, D.C. metro area. When he’s not writing you can find him reading about historical events, playing soccer or tennis, checking out a museum or cultural event, socializing at some interesting local spots, and enjoying all D.C. has to offer. His work can be found on