Washington | Venus and Serena honored by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

Venus Williams and her younger sister Serena were among 7 new names honored with portraits at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. last week, and were also honored during the National Portrait Gallery’s gala on Saturday night, which was attended by more than 750 stars and luminaries from all over America.

History matters and what you do matters. I just remember that moment, and it was literally beyond my dreams – and I had big dreams. And I had the opportunity to work for those dreams and live those dreams. Venus Williams

The winners of the 2022 Portrait of a Nation Contest gathered in the nation’s capital to personally accept their awards. The last Portrait of a Nation gala took place in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The award is given to individuals selected from an illustrious list of contemporary Americans whose portraits are in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

Recipients have made significant contributions in a variety of fields and have demonstrated a significant commitment to service as well as the values ​​of creativity, individuality, insight and exploration.

This year’s recipients were the Williams Sisters, Ava DuVernay, Jose Andres, Clive Davis, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Marian Wright Edelman.

Serena Williams’ portrait was painted by Toyin Oji Odutola.

© Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for the National Portrait Gallery

Serena, 41, was introduced by Mellody Hobson, chairman of the board of directors of Starbucks, and explained that the author of her portrait wanted to show her smile.

“I think it’s very important for the National Portrait Gallery to see a smiling black woman,” Serena said. “Black women are often seen as serious and we are, but we are happy too.

“We are mothers. We are wives. And we are the backbone of this country, and it is very rare to see a work of art and see so many teeth.

“You think of the Mona Lisa, she had a smirk and now you see a genuine smile.”

Serena also spoke about the broader meaning of the newly unveiled portraits, paying tribute to their contributions of black women to American society.

Her portrait is captioned: “This portrait of prominent sportswoman, businesswoman and social activist Serena Williams is by Toyin Oji Odutola.”

The 23-time Grand Slam champion later wrote on Instagram: “To have a photo in the National Portrait Gallery next to so many historical icons? The mind is officially blown.

“But to be initiated along with your sister?” The best feeling ever. Thank you Toyin Oji Odutola for your vision of a happy smile. We need to see more of this.

“And Robert Pruitt, what a sensational vision you had with Venus Williams.”

(LR) Venus Williams, Isha Price and Sonya Haffey have been spotted holding a portrait of Venus by Robert Pruitt.

© Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for the National Portrait Gallery

A life-size double portrait of Venus by Robert Pruitt depicts Williams as a campaigner for equal pay and mental health, as well as a five-time Wimbledon champion.

When Venus, 42, saw the portrait on display at the Smithsonian, the 7-time Grand Slam singles champion spoke about how it affected her.

“I walked in here, and how you were struck by the portraits,” said the former number one in the world. “History matters and what you do matters.

“I just remember that moment, and it was literally beyond my dreams – and I had big dreams. And I had the opportunity to work for those dreams and live those dreams.

“But this is far beyond what I could dream of. And I can’t imagine that I’m here tonight. We did it.”

Serena (left) and Venus Williams last competed together at the US Open in New York.

© Corey Sipkin/AFP via Getty Images

Earlier this year, Serena announced she was “evolving” away from tennis, prompting an emotional farewell tour of the American hard court, but she recently hinted at a comeback despite enduring a season in which she failed to win any. one match. .

Although her older sister Venus has yet to announce her retirement, it is clear that both of them are leaving an indelible mark on the sport and their wider impact on society will be felt by generations to come.

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