Thirty-three years ago today, Elvis Presley died at his home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee. At the time, had anyone told the world that Elvis would be as revered three-plus decades later as he was when he was in his prime, it is likely that the prognosticator would be ridiculed. However, the madness of such a forecast is only now exceeded by the madness that is still Elvis-mania. Hundreds of thousands of people visit Graceland yearly, and Elvis’s recordings sell to each succeeding generation.
The National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition, “Echoes of Elvis,” is a collection of works that were created since Elvis’s death and pay tribute to the late king of rock and roll. Exhibition curator Warren Perry said, “We have been really pleased to be able to salute one of history’s greatest entertainers. That the show has been well received is due to Elvis’s continuing popularity, a third of a century since his death.”
The Portrait Gallery will also be paying homage to the king with a second Elvis show this year, “Elvis at 21,” which will feature photos (above) of Elvis by photographer Al Wertheimer. RCA asked Wertheimer to photograph Elvis during a March 1956 visit to New York, during which the young singer made an appearance on The Steve Allen Show and later recorded “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”
Untitled (Elvis and Priscilla), from the portfolio Graceland / William Eggleston / Dye transfer print, 1983 (printed 1984) / Smithsonian American Art Museum; gift of Amy Loeserman Klein / © Eggleston Artistic Trust and Cheim & Read, New York
Elvis Aron Presley and unidentified woman / Alfred Wertheimer / Pigmented print, June 10, 1956 / Govinda Gallery, Washington D.C.