Marc Pachter, Who Revived National Portrait Gallery, Dies at 80

Marc Pachter, who transformed the National Portrait Gallery in Washington from a collection primarily of solemn paintings of old white men into a more up-to-date museum that now includes illustrations and interviews with diverse living luminaries, died on Feb. 17 in Bangkok. He was 80.

The cause was cardiac arrest, his son, Adam, said. Mr. Pachter, who lived on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, died in a hospital while vacationing in Thailand.

As director of the Portrait Gallery from 2000 to 2007, Mr. Pachter presided over a $300 million renovation that reimagined the museum while maintaining its artistic integrity.

In 2001, he was instrumental in guaranteeing that Gilbert Stuart’s famous and unique 1796 painting of President George Washington — known as the Lansdowne Portrait, after one of its earliest owners, the first Marquess of Lansdowne in England — would remain in the nation’s capital for public display instead of being auctioned off by its latter-day owners, as was threatened.

“If there is an American icon, this is it,” Mr. Pachter said in 2001.

Mr. Pachter with the Lansdowne Portrait of George Washington. He made a public call for funds to save it from the auction block.Credit…Neemah Aaron/Associated Press

The life-size painting depicts the president urging Congress to adopt the unpopular Jay Treaty, which resolved the new nation’s remaining issues with Britain. Washington posed in person for the head and face. Stuart made three copies of the full-figure painting — one of which hangs in the White House — and five other versions.

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