Washington D.C. is a city rich with culture and rhetoric. Monuments and photos are a great way of conveying emotion and making a viewer feel a certain way. This can be seen in many different places throughout D.C. One of the most influential, in my opinion, was the National Portrait Gallery. The two examples I want to speak specifically about from the National Portrait Gallery are the image of Bill Clinton and the image of George Bush.


The portrait of Clinton really grabbed my attention because of the abstract nature of the painting. It was the only painting done in this style. I think this painting grabs the viewer because it stands out against all of the other, more band, paintings. This painting made me think a lot of things about Clinton. For example, the closer to the photo you got, the less it looked like a person and the more it looked like many objects put together. The effect of this makes the viewer believe that Clinton has many pieces to his person. The rhetoric leads you to believe that from far away Clinton appears simple and average, but the closer to him you look the more facets of his person you can see.

In the next portrait, of George Bush, he appears relaxed and at ease. Important things to notice are his lack of a tie and the openness of his stance. He isn’t closing himself off and he even has a half smile on his face. These factors make you believe that he is approachable and even a friend. The effect of this makes him seem more trustworthy as well. The rhetoric in this portrait makes him seem like a really good person, regardless of what you believe about his person or his presidency.

These two portraits are trying to get completely different points across to the viewer and therefore they must use different types of rhetoric to get their main points across. As I previously mentioned the portrait of Clinton is trying to depict his complexity, whereas the portrait of Bush is trying to show his simplicity. The Clinton portrait uses the medium to convey its point, but, on the other hand, uses his positioning and his dress to convey his point. Clinton’s rhetoric is not at all subtle. It grabs your attention instantaneously. Bush’s portrait’s rhetoric is much more subtle. It isn’t quite so obvious the point that it is trying to get across.

This trip taught me about opening my eyes. Before this class I had never thought about rhetoric in terms of paintings or monuments. I didn’t realize they were trying to make me feel a certain way. I appreciated learning about why I have the reactions I do to works of art. The Clinton and Bush portraits would not have meant the same thing to me that they do now before this class. Rhetoric has opened my eyes to the world, both written and seen, and what the world is trying to say to me.