Every Thursday evening, the National Portrait Gallery presents Face-to-Face, a talk about a selected portrait on view in the gallery. As part of this series, NPG historian David Ward discussed this bronze bust of poet Robert Frost. This sculpture, by Walker Kirtland Hancock, is on view in the exhibition “20th-Century Americans,” on the museum’s third floor.
Robert Frost was one of the few modern American poets who combined critical with popular acclaim. His best poetry was written in the 1920s and 1930s, as America was discovering its national and regional histories. Frost’s poems about rural life in New England—“West Running Brook” and “Birches,” for example—struck a chord because they were readable, yet imbued with larger questions about human nature, mortality, and man’s fate.
Frost liked to play the naive rustic, but he was a dedicated craftsman and America’s last great formalist poet. Criticizing modern poetry, he said that writing poems without structure was like “playing tennis without a net.”
The next Face-to-Face portrait talk is this Thursday, October 2, when NPG historian Sidney Hart will discuss Robert Kennedy. The talk runs from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. Visitors meet the presenter in the museum’s F Street lobby and then walk to the appropriate gallery.
Listen to David Ward's Face-to-Face talk on Robert Frost (36:18)
Robert Lee Frost/Walker Kirtland Hancock, 1969 cast after 1950 original/Bronze/National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the artist