Archive for the ‘Presidential Portrait’ Tag

How To Be Unemployable   3 comments

Bill Clinton portrait by Nelson Shanks, from the National Portrait Gallery

Bill Clinton portrait by Nelson Shanks, from the National Portrait Gallery

Yesterday, this blog set a record for traffic. One particular page got most of the views: the Bill Clinton page from my Presidential Portraits series.

What happened?

There was big news yesterday about the Clinton portrait by Nelson Shanks that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.

Mr. Shanks revealed an “Easter egg” in the painting … a 10-year old secret that only he knew until yesterday.

The secret? He had put a blue dress on a mannequin to cast a shadow onto the scene he was painting – all while Clinton was not in the room posing for him. This blue dress shadow, which is memorialized below the plant on the mantle to the viewer’s left of Clinton, represents the Monica Lewinsky scandal to Mr. Shanks.

So, yesterday he revealed why there was a shadow in the painting. This announcement did a few things:

  • explained the reason for a shadow across the portrait (me, I just thought it was art).
  • re-invigorated the Monica Lewinsky scandal for Mr Shanks’ gain
  • made his future employment by any prominent person suspect … I mean, who needs this kind of grief when you’re paying a portraitist as much as $200,000 for a full length painting?

I’m sure President Clinton regrets posing for the obviously untrustworthy Shanks. I don’t know who actually paid for this portrait (paintings of Presidents for the National Portrait Gallery or the White House – the two most prominent collections – are often paid for by anonymous donors), but I’m sure they regret that decision as well.


Portraits: Bill Clinton

NBC News: Bill Clinton Portrait Has Hidden Monica Lewinsky Portrait Bill Clinton’s Portrait Includes Symbolic Nod To Lewinsky Affair

Portraits: John Tyler   Leave a comment

John Tyler (1790 – 1862)John Tyler circa 1850 Daguerreotype

The 10th President of the United States, 1841 – 1845

AKA: His Accidency (from his opponents; he was the first President be elevated to the office after the death of his predecessor)

From: Virginia

College: The College of William & Mary

Married to: Letitia Christian, Julia Gardiner

Children: Mary, Robert, John Jr, Letitia, Elizabeth, Anne Contesse, Alice, Tazewell, David Gardiner, John Alexander, Julia Gardiner, Lachlan, Lyon Gardiner, Robert Fitzwalter, Pearl

Party: Independent, 1841 – 1862; Whig, 1834 – 1841; Democratic, 1824 – 1834; Democratic-Republican, before 1825

Previous Jobs: lawyer, Chancellor of the College of William & Mary, US Congressman, Governor of Virginia, US Senator, President pro tempore of the US Senate, Vice President

In His Words: “Popularity, I have always thought, may aptly be compared to a coquette – the more you woo her, the more apt is she to elude your embrace.”

“I can never consent to being dictated to as to what I shall or shall not do. I, as President, shall be responsible for my administration. I hope to have your hearty co-operation in carrying out its measures. So long as you see fit to do this, I shall be glad to have you with me. When you think otherwise, your resignations will be accepted.”

“So far as it depends on the course of this government, our relations of good will and friendship will be sedulously cultivated with all nations.”

“For how can the example of a democratic America be resisted? Do you not perceive that a light is breaking forth everywhere? That this same free America has already civilized a continent, which when we were boys was almost all in a wilderness state?”

“In 1840 I was called from my farm to undertake the administration of public affairs and I foresaw that I was called to a bed of thorns. I now leave that bed which has afforded me little rest, and eagerly seek repose in the quiet enjoyments of rural life.”

“If the tide of defamation and abuse shall turn, and my administration come to be praised, future Vice-Presidents who may succeed to the Presidency may feel some slight encouragement to pursue an independent course.”

Not true: Tyler is now a US citizen, but was not when he died!  After leaving office in 1845, Tyler worked to resolve the differences between the North and the South, but when he could not get Virginia to compromise, he supported secession.  He was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives, but died before taking his seat.  He’s often thought of as a traitor, and was actually not a citizen when he died.  He’s the first President whose death was not recognized by the US government.  His citizenship was restored over 100 years later by President Carter.

True: Tyler was vehemently against the slave trade, but was supportive of slavery itself.  He believed in the ascendancy of the white man over the black man.

After he did not support key Whig policies after he assumed the Presidency, the Whigs dropped this sitting President from their party!

President Tyler would often play his violin at White House parties. At one time he wanted to be a concert violinist.

During his Presidency, Florida was admitted as a state, Texas was annexed and Tyler extended Monroe Doctrine protection to Hawaii.

Tyler was one of two Presidents widowed while in office (Wilson was the other).

When President Harrison died in 1841, our country faced for the first time the transition for the elected Vice President to assume the office of the Presidency.  It was no certain thing, with all of the turmoil of the mid-19th century.  President Tyler asserted himself immediately and properly, ensuring future generations could count on a smooth transition of power.

President Tyler would often play his violin at White House parties. At one time he wanted to be a concert violinist.

Tyler would return unopened any mail – any mail – that failed to address him properly as president.

The Official Portrait: One of several presidential portraits painted by George P. A. Healy.  This painting is dated 1859, and was displayed in the White Blue Room as recently as 2009.

I am fascinated with the contempt for journalism shown in this portrait!


Portraits: John Quincy Adams   4 comments

John Quincy Adams (1767 – 1849)

Adams was the first (ex) President to be photographed, in 1843 … though there are claims that Harrison was photographed in 1841, no proof exists.

The 6th President of the United States, 1825 – 1829

When Adams sat for this portrait, he doubted that artist George Caleb Bingham could produce “a strong likeness.” Ralph Waldo Emerson commented that the aging Adams was “like one of those old cardinals, who as quick as he is chosen Pope, throws away his crutches and his crookedness, and is as straight as a boy.”

AKA: Old Man Eloquent or The Abolitionist

From: Massachusetts

College: Harvard College, class of 1787

Married to: Louisa Adams

Children: Charles Francis Adams, Sr, George Washington Adams, John Adams II, Louisa Catherine Adams

Party: Federalist, Democratic-Republican, Whig

Previous Jobs: secretary, lawyer, state senator, senator, diplomat, Secretary of State

In His Words: “Civil liberty can be established on no foundation of human reason which will not at the same time demonstrate the right of religious freedom.”

“The manners of women are the surest criterion by which to determine whether a republican government is practicable in a nation or not.”

“America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

Not true:  Adams’ service to the United States became an issue in the 2012 Presidential race, 183 years after he died.  Michelle Bachmann famously declared that our founding fathers “worked tirelessly to end slavery.”  When  journalists called Bachmann on being inaccurate, she cited John Quincy Adams as one founding father that was an example of what she meant.  In spite of his unprecedented international experience at a very tender age, it does seem to stretch credibility to call him a founding father, as he was only 9 years old in 1776.  It is true that he railed against slavery while serving in the House of Representatives, but he was not a steady advocate for abolition until after he was President.

True: He served in the diplomatic service at the age of 13 as the secretary to the US envoy to Russia.  He later was one of the secretaries to Jefferson and Franklin, helping them draft the documents confirming US independence from Great Britian.  He was barely 16.

In the 1824 Presidential election, he did not win the popular vote, nor a majority of the electoral college.  Because no candidate won a majority, he was eventually selected as President by the House of Representatives.  Adams had been a brilliant diplomat, but proved to be an idealistic and inflexible President.  He followed his father’s unfortunate example as the 2nd President to only serve one term.

He’s the only President to serve in the House of Representatives after he left the White House.

The Official Portrait:

George Peter Alexander Healy was one of the most prolific portrait artists of his day.  He painted 18 Presidents, from John Quincy Adams to Ulysses S Grant.  Some of his other famous paintings were of Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Pope Pius IX and John James Audobon.

Portraits: Theodore Roosevelt   5 comments

Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919)

The 26th President of the United States, 1901 – 1909

AKA: Teddy

From: New York

College: Harvard class of 1880, Columbia Law School

Married to: Alice Hathaway Lee, Edith Kermit Carrow

Both his mother and his first wife died on the same day; his diary entry said “The light has gone out of my life.”

Children: Alice (with Alice), and with Edith: Theodore Jr., Kermit, Ethel Carrow, Archibald Bulloch and Quentin

Party: Republican, Bull Moose

Previous Jobs: Cattle rancher, deputy sheriff, historian, naturalist, explorer, author of 35 books, police commissioner, assistant Secretary of the Navy, governor of New York, war hero, and lawyer.

In His Words:  “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

“When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer ‘present’ or ‘not guilty.'”

Portrait by Adrian Lamb

Not true: The Iron Ore, a newspaper in Marquette County, Upper Peninsula, Michigan, accused Teddy of public drunkenness.  The editorial stated, “Roosevelt lies, and curses in a most disgusting way, he gets drunk too, and that not infrequently, and all of his intimates know about it.”  Roosevelt was running for President at the time as the standard bearer for the Bull Moose Party, and he sued for libel in what became one of the most celebrated trials of 1912.  The newspaper editor admitted guilt, and Teddy settled for six cents … the “price of a good newspaper,” he said.  The Iron Ore cost three cents.

True: As the first conservationist president, he spearheaded the creation of the United States Forest Service, and established five new national parks. He was responsible for the start of the Wildlife Refuge system. During his administration, 42 million acres were set aside as national forests, wildlife refuges, and areas of special interest (such as the Grand Canyon).

He coined the phrase “good to the last drop” after being asked about the quality of Maxwell House coffee.

The Official Portrait:

Edith Roosevelt portrait, by Theobald Charlton, 1902

John Singer Sargent’s painting would be the official portrait of the President, but it wasn’t the first. In 1902 Theobald Chartran was  commissioned to paint portraits of the President and his wife. Although she enjoyed her’s, Teddy simply hated his. At first they tried to hide the blasted thing in an upper corridor in the darkest place on the wall. The family called it the “Mewing Cat.” Teddy disliked it so much that he eventually destroyed it.

What Teddy wanted was a man’s portrait by a artist that could capture the adventurer that he was.

The two men walked around the house searching for the right setting, but nothing was working. As they climbed the stairs, Teddy barked that Sargent must not know what he wanted. Sargent, who was also frustrated, snapped back that he didn’t think the President appreciated what was needed to pose for a portrait. Roosevelt, the stairway landing, planted his hand on the balustrade post, turned onto the ascending artist and said,  “Don’t I!”

And that was the pose Sargent wanted.

Sargent’s portrait of Teddy Roosevelt was exactly what Teddy Roosevelt wanted and he would adore the portrait for the rest of his life. It had exactly captured, in the President’s eyes, the essence of his energy as well as his presidency.