National Portrait Gallery unveils portrait honoring Aretha Franklin

WASHINGTON — The National Portrait Gallery unveiled Friday a portrait of Aretha Franklin, which will have an honorary place in the gallery’s “in memoriam” section through Wednesday.

“Works on paper we have to be very careful with; they are more susceptible to damage from light than paintings and sculptures,” said Robyn Asleson, the National Portrait Gallery’s associate curator of prints, drawings and media arts.

The poster of the late Queen of Soul hanging on the gallery’s first floor just off the foyer on the gallery’s G Street side is an original foldout poster from a teen magazine. The image was created by graphic designer Milton Glaser.

"We have a national anthem, but I think of Aretha Franklin as our national voice," the National Portrait Gallery's associate curator of prints, drawings and media arts, Robyn Asleson, said. "She sang about respect, she sang about freedom, she told us to think -- all these things we think of as being American, she kind of personified." (WTOP/Kristi King)
“We have a national anthem, but I think of Aretha Franklin as our national voice,” the National Portrait Gallery’s associate curator of prints, drawings and media arts, Robyn Asleson, said. “She sang about respect, she sang about freedom, she told us to think — all these things we think of as being American, she kind of personified.” (WTOP/Kristi King)

The Aretha Franklin by Milton Glaser, 1968, Color photolithographic poster, National Portrait Gallery,
Smithsonian Institution, © Milton Glaser
The Aretha Franklin by Milton Glaser, 1968, Color photolithographic poster, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, © Milton Glaser

Aretha Franklin  with  her  Portrait at the  American Portrait Gala in 2015. (Courtesy  of  Angela  Pham  BFA)
Aretha Franklin with her Portrait at the American Portrait Gala in 2015. (Courtesy of Angela Pham BFA)

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"We have a national anthem, but I think of Aretha Franklin as our national voice," the National Portrait Gallery's associate curator of prints, drawings and media arts, Robyn Asleson, said. "She sang about respect, she sang about freedom, she told us to think -- all these things we think of as being American, she kind of personified." (WTOP/Kristi King)
The Aretha Franklin by Milton Glaser, 1968, Color photolithographic poster, National Portrait Gallery,
Smithsonian Institution, © Milton Glaser
Aretha Franklin  with  her  Portrait at the  American Portrait Gala in 2015. (Courtesy  of  Angela  Pham  BFA)

“So much power, so much beauty, so much color and dynamism,” Asleson said, describing both Glaser’s art and its subject. “You can just imagine a teenager receiving this magazine in November 1968, opening it up and this explosion of color comes out.”

In late 1968, Franklin was at the pinnacle of her early career, Asleson said.

“We have a national anthem, but I think of Aretha franklin as our national voice. She sang about respect, she sang freedom, she told us to think — all these things we think of as being American, she kind of personified.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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