Smithsonian Collections

Ethel Merman

Image for Ethel Merman
Smithsonian Museum
National Portrait Gallery
In 1930 the Gershwin musical Girl Crazy opened on Broadway, and toward the end of the first act, an unknown singer named Ethel Merman mesmerized the audience with her rendition of "I Got Rhythm," in the course of which she held a high-C for sixteen bars. As Merman later put it, by the time the applause died, "a star had been born. Me." Over the next five decades, her booming voice and brassy style were the main attraction of some of the most successful Broadway musicals ever, including Anything Goes, Gypsy, and Annie Get Your Gun-whose score included her trademark song, "There's No Business Like Show Business." Of her singing technique, Merman once said, "I just stand up and holler and hope that my voice holds out."
The artist; purchased 1971 NPG.
Rosemarie Sloat, born 17 Mar 1929
Ethel Merman, 16 Jan 1909 - 15 Feb 1984
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Ethel Merman
Oil and acrylic on canvas
Stretcher: 227.3 x 126.4 x 3.2cm (89 1/2 x 49 3/4 x 1 1/4")
Frame: 233.7 x 146.1 x 10.2cm (92 x 57 1/2 x 4")