By Hanna Andrews

On Tallulah Bankhead by Augustus Edwin John (1930)

I first saw her at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., having a few minutes to spare before scurrying off to a panel at a literary conference, my notebook still tucked between stiff fingers nicked by the cold. The chill hung onto my exposed knuckles through the long halls and wary high ceilings, and as I browsed figures painted stiff and presidential, others twisted pantheonic in contrapposto, I kept wandering, clattering as loose change. I drifted past the marble and cast bronze, meandered through both Davinci and Harlem’s Renaissance, and ascended stairs partially to test the property that heat…