For the People - Abraham Lincoln Association

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For the People - Abraham Lincoln Association

For the PeopleA N e w s l e t t e r o f t h e A b r a h a m L i n c o l n A s s o c i a t i o nVolume 3, Number 1 Spring, 2001 Springfield, Illinoisby Michael Fowler *Many American artists andwriters have returned repeatedlythrough the years toconvey something of the life and characterof Abraham Lincoln. Biographies,paintings, articles, sculpture,and film about the man continueunabated to the present. They record,reinterpret, memorialize, somehow representaspects of the great Emancipator,the savior of the Union, the manof the people, or some other type orarchetype. The richness and volume ofinterpretive production attest to thecontinued fascination that much ofAmerica has for this historic figure.Paintings of Lincoln are the focusof this present study. To incorporateother media, especially for the scopeand intent of this research, would simplybe prohibitive in length andbreadth. Paintings were also selectedas the focus due to the artistic experienceof the author and because it is afamiliar and approachable medium tomany. It also has historically affordeda great deal of flexibility and versatilityof expression for the novice as well asthe professional artist, besides containingthe ever-attractive elements ofcolor.But while paintings of Lincolnappear at least as varied in style andapproach as are the written portraits,they have, according to some, fallenshort as communicators of at leastLincoln’s likeness. Merrill D. Peterson’sLincoln in American Memory(1994) explores the history ofLincoln’s place in American thoughtand imagination. He frames his studywithin some of the above-mentionedarchetypes, which Lincoln has takenLincoln Portraits:An Interpretive Frameworkon through the years. As he discussescontributions that artists and writershave made memorializing Lincoln,Peterson notes difficulties that portraitartists in particular have had in capturingLincoln’s likeness. He says:“Lincoln, for better or worse, had noGilbert Stuart to turn him into anicon” (p. 61). Other authors refer tosecond-rate painters who haveattempted but failed to capture whatLincoln’s secretary, John Nicolay,noted even during Lincoln’s lifetime:continued on page 3Abraham Lincoln by George P. A. Healy (1860)


2 For the PeopleFebruary 12, 2001, was an especiallygood day for Mr. Lincolnin Springfield. It began with ameeting of the Lincoln Legals AdvisoryBoard and ended with the BattleHymn of the Republic at the conclusionof the Annual Banquet. Betweenthe two, there was the groundbreakingfor the Lincoln Presidential Library,which can be seen on C-SPAN, and theAnnual ALA Symposium.Seven score years and one daybefore, Mr. Lincoln left Springfieldnever to return. Before leaving, hegave one of his most eloquent speeches,“the Farewell Address,” all threeversions of which can be found in theCollected Works. Thanks to the expertwork of Daniel Stowell of the LincolnLegal Papers and Christine Powell ofthe University of Michigan, theCollected Works is now available onlinein searchable format through the ALAWeb site. Thanks to Stacey McDermottof the Lincoln Legal Papers, theALA Web site is now current and morecomplete than ever. Kim Bauer andThomas Schwartz continue to providethe excellent content. Please check ourWeb site out and let us know what youwould like added or changed. Theaddress is www.alincolnassoc.com.For the second year in a row, theBanquet was sold out, this time severalweeks before the reservation cutoffdate. Not bad for a Monday night inUnless otherwise indicated,photographs are courtesy of theIllinois State Historical Library,SpringfieldFor the People (ISSN 1527-2710) ispublished four times a year and is abenefit of membership of theAbraham Lincoln Association1 Old State Capitol PlazaSpringfield, Illinois62701Newsletter design and layoutby William B. Tubbswbt60@earthlink.netPresident’s Columnby Don TracyFebruary in a small midwestern town!Thank you ALA members and thankyou Michael Beschloss.One of the many distinguishedguests at the Banquet was formerGovernor Jim Edgar and his beautifulwife, Brenda. This was GovernorEdgar’s fourteenth ALA Banquet infifteen years, including all eight whilehe was governor. At the 1998Banquet, Governor Edgar officiallyannounced that the Lincoln PresidentialLibrary and Museum would, aftermany years of anticipation, receive itsfirst and most important appropriation.Thank you Governor Edgar.Comptroller Dan Hynes attendedthe Banquet for the second year in arow. Hynes and Governor GeorgeRyan are cochairs of the IllinoisBicentennial Commission and areworking with the ALA on initial planningfor 2009.I have received much and lavishpraise for this year’s Banquet, which Ihereby pass on with amplification tothe many dedicated directors andmembers who have contributed somuch: Jim Patton (Banquet Chair),Georgia Northrup (Arrangements andSeating), Thomas Schwartz (InvitationFlyer, Program & Virtual LibraryReport), Harlington Wood, Jr.(Program Photographs), RichardMills (Lincoln the Lawyer AwardPresentation), Susan Mogerman (PresidentialLibrary Report), Bob Eckley(Endowment Announcement), VeryReverend William Privette (Invocation& Benediction), and Greg Walbert(Invitation Flyer design).One of the many benefits of servingas ALA President is the opportunityto dine with people like James B.Stewart, Doris Kearns Goodwin, andMichael Beschloss. All are greatspeechmakers and charming dinnercompanions with interesting insightsinto capital issues and controversies.After thirteen years of editing theJournal of the Abraham LincolnAssociation, during which time theJournal has evolved from a small, privatelyproduced booklet of annualSymposium papers into a semi-annualfirst-rate scholarly journal publishedby a major university press, ThomasSchwartz is turning the editorshipover to Dr. Bryon Andreasen over atwo-year transition. Thank you, Tom,for you many years of service to theJournal, for finding such an able successor,and for continuing to serve asALA Secretary, Newsletter Editor, andSymposium Chair.If you have not yet renewed yourALA membership, you will soonreceive Molly Becker’s firm, butcharming, “now you belong to theages,” letter. Please renew now so thatwe can count on your continued supportand interest. If you have a questionabout the status of your membership,you can contact me via e-mail atdtracy@bhslaw.com.Mark your calendars now forFebruary 12, 2002. As a member, youwill receive advance notice of theBanquet details and Symposium program.Clarence Page has tentativelyagreed to be the Banquet speaker.Allen Guelzo, Brooks Simpson, andLerone Bennett, Jr., have committedto the Symposium, and Ira Berlin hasbeen invited to complete the panel. Ihope to see you then, if not before.Member NewsCondolences are extended to thefamilies of Vernon Fernandezand Abraham Lincoln Marovitz.Fernandez was a leader in the historicalcommunity of Jacksonville,Illinois, and the recognized authorityon Jacksonville history. AbrahamLincoln Marovitz was a distinguishedIllinois legislator and judge. Thosewho attended the 1999 AbrahamLincoln Association Banquet willremember Judge Marovitz’s eloquentinvocation and benediction. His passingat age ninety-five is a genuine loss.He was everyone’s friend and a strongadvocate of his namesake, AbrahamLincoln.


For the People 3THE ABRAHAM LINCOLNASSOCIATIONDONALD R. TRACYPresidentMOLLY BECKERRICHARD E. HARTRICHARD MILLSVice-PresidentsTHOMAS F. SCHWARTZSecretaryJUDITH BARRINGERTreasurerDAN W. B ANNISTERImmediate Past-PresidentBoard of DirectorsR-Lou BarkerRoger D. BridgesMichael BurlingameSheldon S. CohenJohn DalyBrooks DavisRodney O. DavisRobert S. EckleyDonald H. FunkAllen C. GuelzoEdith Lee HarrisKathryn HarrisNorman D. HellmersEarl W. Henderson, Jr.Fred B. HoffmannBarbara HughettRobert W. JohannsenLewis E. LehrmanSusan MogermanGeorgia NorthrupPhillip S. PaludanJames W. Patton IIIMark PlummerGerald ProkopowiczJames A. RawleyBrooks D. SimpsonRobert A. Stuart, Jr.Louise TaperJohn T. TrutterAndy VanMeterMargaret VanMeterDaniel R. WeinbergRobert WillardDouglas L. WilsonKenneth J. WinkleHonorary DirectorsGovernor George H. RyanSenator Richard DurbinSenator Peter FitzgeraldCongressman Ray LaHoodCongressman John ShimkusMayor Karen HasaraThe Honorable Rita GarmanEmeritus DirectorsWillard Bunn, Jr.John R. ChapinCullom DavisIrving DilliardJames MyersSally SchanbacherDistinguished DirectorsMario M. CuomoDavid Herbert DonaldJohn Hope FranklinGarry WillsLincoln PortraitsAn Interpretive Frameworkcontinued from page 1the paintings “‘petrified’ some singlelook, but the picture remained hardand cold” (Mellon, The Face of Lincoln,p.6). Peterson concludes that it is thephotographs and sculpture, ratherthan the paintings and engravings, thathave “opened a window into Lincoln’ssoul” (Peterson, p. 341). Indeed,Frederick Hill Meserve, an early leadingand established authority and collectorof Lincoln photographs, makesan even more restrictive evaluation:“Of the countless engravings andpaintings of Lincoln, many are merecaricatures. The photographs showhim as he was” (Meserve, ThePhotographs of Abraham Lincoln, p.25).Still, when examined and interpretedfor what they are as artobjects—by the visible, attestablethings within the pieces themselves—the paintings of Lincoln, completedover nearly a century and a half ago,though not always succeeding as faithfullikenesses (whatever that mayentail), do provide a viable andintriguing venue for examining thisman’s unique and complex appearanceand character.At another level, the paintingsconsidered so far in this researchinclude not only the work of skilledportrait artists, but also painters andillustrators known for their work inother genre. Landscape painter MarsdenHartley of the Stieglitz Group inthe earlier part of this century andillustrator Norman Rockwell someforty years later have portrayed evocativeLincolns. Those who have pursuedprofessions in music and politics—WoodyGuthrie and DwightEisenhower, to name two—have alsofelt the need to weigh in by painting atleast one portrait of this Americanicon.Such a collection of images, whenpresented thematically, chronologically,or according to some other schemashould also contribute to the viewinginterest. Collectively these paintingscan be described as kaleidoscopic asthey reflect, refract, and transmitglimpses of the people and times thatproduced them. While some of thepaintings of Lincoln seem dry derivativesof well known photographicposes, others are more interpretative—some refreshingly so. A few seemclumsily drawn, and still others havethe decorative flair and charm of folkart.Some have written informatively—evenskillfully—about Lincoln’sportrayal in the visual media of photographs,sculpture, paintings, andengravings. They have emphasizedthe descriptive and narrative elements,and, appropriately, their historic accuracy.Few if any have written about theway the medium communicates on itsown expressive terms. This author, forover twenty years a painter andinstructor of art and design, arguesthat the way a painting is interpreted,as in any work of art, comes at least asmuch from the choices the artist makesregarding such things as the painting’ssize and shape, the relative scale of thesubject within the format, its colorscheme and value range, and the kindof painting medium used and the wayit is applied. The task to find meaningand merits in these portrayals ofLincoln, as in any art analysis andinterpretation, should be one groundedat least in the ingredients of thework itself (Barnet, A Short Guide toWriting About Art, 2000). The viewercan thus be guided to the painting’smeaning by acknowledging these visibleelements. The author also remindsthat while such an interpretation is notnecessarily definitive, at least dialogabout it can be based on its visualcomponents (Feldman, Varieties ofVisual Experience, 1992).This article represents initialresearch on the subject. The authorhas viewed firsthand over eighty paintingswith Abraham Lincoln as themain subject—paintings in more thana dozen collections at as many sites.continued on page 6


4 For the PeopleThe 2001 Abraham Lincoln Association BanquetSince 1963, the Abraham LincolnAssociation has celebrated theFebruary 12 birth of AbrahamLincoln in his hometown of Springfield,Illinois. The tradition beganseemingly effortless mastery of theproceedings kept the evening livelyand entertaining. The 33rd IllinoisVolunteer Regiment Band providedmusic. The evening ended with thetraditional signing of the “BattleHymn of the Republic.”Proceeds from the Banquet fundthe afternoon scholarly Symposiumand publications of the Association.Michael Beschloss accepts original artwork created by Greg Walbaum, whodesigns the Association’s announcement brochures.with the 1909 commemoration of theone hundredth anniversary of AbrahamLincoln’s birth. Banquet speakersincluded such notables as Booker T.Washington, president of the TuskegeeInstitute, and such political figures asWilliam Jennings Bryan. The Associationceased activities in 1953. It wasnot due to lack of interest but ratherthe Association liquidated all of theirassets to see through to publication theCollected Works of Abraham Lincoln, aneight-volume compilation of all ofLincoln’s writings and speeches.This year, Michael Beschloss,author and presidential historian, honoredthe Association with his commentson presidential leadership. Thewit and colorful anecdotes that weresprinkled throughout his thoughtfulremarks did not disappoint the selloutcrowd.Association president Donald R.Tracy presided over the festivities. HisDr. Robert S. Eckley provides guestswith an update on the AbrahamLincoln Association endowment fund.Theodore Gertz accepts the Lincoln the Lawyer Award on behalf of his late father,civil rights lawyer Elmer Gertz, from Judge Richard Mills.


For the People 5More Photographs from the 2001 AbrahamLincoln Association BanquetThe 33rd Illinois Volunteer Regiment Band from Pekin, Illinois, performs duringa brief break in the ceremony.New Selection of Lincoln TitlesAsa continuing service to ourmembership, the AbrahamLincoln Association is pleasedto offer the following four titles to itsmembers at discount prices. Three ofthe four are recently released titles.Don E. Fehrenbacher died before hefinished his magnum opus on slaveryin the American Republic. Ward M.McAfee, who studied under Fehrenbacherbefore embarking upon hisown distinguished career as a historian,completed and edited the piece.Michael Burlingame edits another collectionof writings by John Hay,Lincoln’s private secretary. Charles B.Strozier’s psychobiographical study ofAbraham Lincoln reappears in a completelyrevised and updated version.Please make all checks out to“IHPA.” Illinois residents must addsales tax to their total.John Ashworth, Slavery, Capitalism, and Politics in the Antebellum RepublicRetail: $23.95 ALA Price: $20.50 IL sales tax: $1.49Michael Burlingame, At Lincoln’s Side: John Hay’s Civil War Correspondence andSelected WritingsRetail: $39.95 ALA Price: $32.00 IL sales tax: $2.32Don E. Fehrenbacher and Ward M. McAfee, The Slaveholding Republic: AnAccount of the United States Government’s Relations to SlaveryRetail: $35.00 ALA Price: $28.00 IL sales tax: $2.03Charles B. Strozier, Lincoln’s Quest for Union: A Psychological PortraitRetail: $18.95 ALA Price: $15.25 IL sales tax: 1.11Michael Beschloss signs an autographfor a banquet guestFirstHay-NicolayDissertationAwardThe Abraham Lincoln Associationannounced that StewartWinger was the first recipient ofthe Hay-Nicolay Award for best dissertationin Lincoln studies. Wingerstudied at the University of Chicagounder the direction of Martin E.Marty. Winger’s dissertation, “Lincoln’sReligious Rhetoric: AmericanRomanticism and the AntislaveryImpulse,” is under publication considerationby Northern Illinois UniversityPress. Winger, in attendance as one ofthe featured symposium speakers,went home with a $5,000 check. Heis currently a visiting scholar at thecontinued on page 8


6 For the PeopleLincoln Portraits: An Interpretive Frameworktively record the topography of theface. Any bravado of the artist’s brushwould be out of place here.But the subject is not overly grandor immaculate. It is made approachableas well. Lincoln’s facial expressionis warmed by a relaxed expression.Hazel eyes emerge from under heavyeyelids and a stray forelock rests onLincoln’s broad forehead. Hair surroundingthe profile occurs in randomwisps. Also, the warm blush acrossnose, cheek, and ear, though a departurefrom what contemporaries havedescribed as a sallow complexion, iscomplemented by the dark, smooth,shaven area of the beard. If Healyused the contemporary Hesler photographsas a model, they have notenslaved him to portraying the roughtexture of skin nor the firmly set jaw.Healy has warmed and softened thisportrayal, but has stopped short of idealizingthe likeness. It is the combinationof the majestic and approachablethat is the chief attraction of the piece.Some fifty years later, GeorgeHandel Story, also reportedly workingfrom life sketches of Lincoln but at amuch later time in his own life, offersa dramatically different portrayal ofthe man. Story’s portrait (ca. 1915) isof about the same size and scale andpresents what could be called a majesticLincoln as well, but his approachhas more of a flair for the dramatic.Rather than a natural lookingapproachable Lincoln portrayed in thecontext of a neutral background, Storypresents a Lincoln carved, polished,and painted. Contrasts are up fromthe previous portrait, and this Lincolnis placed outdoors against darkenedskies. The foreboding clouds break inthe distance to reveal a sun-drenchedcapitol building at the lower right,while the stripes of a large Americanflag can be faintly perceived in the nearbackground at left. These componentsare no doubt added to stir the patrioticin the viewer. They are rendered ina thick, directly painted impasto,adding energy to the deep space of thecomposition. This flourish of brushcontinuedfrom page 3For each, he has written a descriptiveanalysis, recording a physical descriptionand writing summary notes ofimpressions while in the painting’spresence. The author intends to continuethis approach as long as leads tooriginal paintings of the sixteenthpresident continue to emerge. Hehopes to accomplish at least the followingas a result of his research: 1) tobegin a dialog about at least theexpressive meanings of these paintings,beginning in this article, with acomparative analysis of three Lincolnpaintings separated by time and artisticapproach; 2) from these and otherinterpretations, to explore some waysto organize thematic concepts of theseimages for an illustrated book; 3) tobegin the process toward a comprehensivecataloging of painted imagesof Lincoln; and 4) to receive assistancein locating other paintings in publicand private collections for possibleinclusion in the proposed publication.Three paintings of Lincoln havebeen selected for this comparativeanalysis. They were selected based ontheir range of expressive style as well astheir depiction of Lincoln by artistsseparated in time by over a century.The analysis of each painting, thoughnot intended to be comprehensive, isintended to feature some of the moreobvious physical attributes of theartist’s use of color, format, shapes,and textures that contribute to theexpressive meaning of the piece, whilehighlighting some of the similaritiesand differences among them.Is there a more majestic, yetapproachable, Lincoln than the one inGeorge P. A. Healy’s 1860 beardlessportrait? Some of the majesty andsolemnity of the painting stems fromthe nearly life-sized presentation of thesubject, one in which Lincoln’s headand shoulders are set in view within agenerous dark and neutral backgroundexpanse—as a jewel against dark velvet.Also, the artist has renderedLincoln’s face respectfully, with eachnuance of wrinkle and fold a result of aLincoln for the Defenseby Norman Rockwell(1962)© 1962 The Curtis Publishing Companyskillful build-up of translucent colorglazes. This indirect painting method,a traditional approach brought forwardfrom the earliest uses of the oilpainting medium, seems appropriatefor the mission of this artist to objec-


For the People 7stroke is also one seen increasingly intwentieth-century American painting.It crosses all genres as the artist imposesmore of his individuality in thepainting.The value and color extremes ofthe background are carried into thesubject itself, with highlights andshadows of the face and shirtfront aresult of sculpturally rendered effectsin paint. Even the nose is scrubbed toa polished patina, with an almost purewhite highlight accenting the top rightedge. Portraying a memorializedLincoln, Story has made an issue ofthe sixteenth president’s furrowedface—the lines appearing to be not justetched, but carved into his countenancefor time immemorial. The gazeis dramatized as well, with eyesfocused on the viewer. Their skewedalignment, as that of the nose to theprodigious and firmly set mouth, addsan idiosyncratic drama to an alreadyenergized portrayal.Story has given us an arrestingportrait, bordering on the surreal, butnevertheless energized and impassionedfrom a lifetime of meditationand reflection of sketches he made duringan encounter with the newly electedCivil War president.In a word, drama is also an appropriatedescriptor for the last piece inthis discussion. The artist, NormanRockwell, creates a Lincoln portraitthat is dramatic on a number of levels.Painted in 1962, at a time when much Abraham Lincoln by George Handel Story (ca. 1915)continued on page 8APPLICATION FOR MEMBERSHIPPlease enroll me as a member of theAbraham Lincoln Association in thecategory indicated:_____ Railsplitter . . . . . . . . . . $ 25_____ Postmaster . . . . . . . . . . $ 75_____ Lawyer . . . . . . . . . . . $ 200_____ Congressman . . . . . . . $ 500_____ Presidential . . . . . . $ 1,000Members residing outside the U.S add$3.00Mail this application (or a photocopy)and a check to:The Abraham Lincoln Association1 Old State Capitol PlazaSpringfield, Illinois62701Name___________________________Street ___________________________City ____________________________State ___________________________Zip ____________________________Web site: www.alincolnassoc.com


8 For the PeopleLincoln Portraits: An Interpretive Frameworkcontinued from page 7of America was recalling the centennialof the Civil War and its commanderin-chief,Lincoln for the Defense reflectsRockwell’s interest in one of the subject’searlier and more personally dramaticmoments. He captures the thenlawyerLincoln in the midst of the trialfor New Salem friend and accusedmurderer Duff Armstrong, hereshown seated and cowering, wristsshackled and shrouded in darkenedcolors in the near background.Rockwell departs from the traditionalportrait format and dress, posingLincoln standing in white trousers androlled-up shirt-sleeves, holding analmanac in his left hand (supposedlythe chief exhibit of his argument), hisright hand clenched and forcefullypressed against a book on the tablethat separates him from the defendant.Tension is as much the subject here, asLincoln is not only shown front andcenter, but turned in a dynamic _ viewto the left, pressed to the plane of thecanvas, with the viewer’s eye level athis knees. From this unusual vantagepoint, the viewer must consequentlylook up to the towering form ofLincoln in command, and, curiously,to the underside of his jutting chin andnose to hollows beneath a foreshortenedforehead, from which emerges anintense gaze. Nothing rests easily inthis painting.Further tension is created as thepainting’s format is stretched verticallyto accommodate Lincoln’s elongatedform. Though the overall paintingmeasures less than four feet high, apossible detraction from the dramadue to its smallish size, its height isnearly four times its width. Curiously,and atypical for many of Rockwell’sillustrations, the earlier fussy paintdaubs are preempted by paint irregularlyapplied in tiny ribbons andsplotches of high intensity color, energizingLincoln’s white outfit and bluelively patterned galluses. Even these,though removed from their supportivefunction, rest uneasily at Lincoln’s hip.Rockwell, in his sixth decade as illustrator,still in control of portrait likenessesand color and lighting effects,has let loose with some fireworks ofthe brush for this patriotic call to arms.This Lincoln portrait, like the othersin terms of possessing a uniquepresence, is unlike them in style andintent. It captures a moment intime—one pregnant with tension andanticipation. The two previous paintings,in whatever degree of naturalness,nobility, or idiosyncrasy, rendereda more timeless Lincoln. In sum, thesethree paintings, chosen for their differencesin style, approach, and intent,begin to illustrate some of the potentialrange of expressive meanings andconsequent enjoyment that one cangain from a guided interpretation oftheir form.*Michael Fowler is a professor ofart history at the University of SouthCarolina - Aiken.FirstHay-NicolayDissertation Awardcontinued from page 5American University at Cairo, Egypt.He and his wife are the proud parentsof a baby girl, Claire.The Hay-Nicolay dissertationaward seeks to identify and rewardoutstanding young scholars just beginningtheir academic careers. Theaward is a cooperative effort betweenthe Abraham Lincoln Association andthe Mid-Atlantic Lincoln StudiesInstitute. Two five thousand-dollarprizes will be awarded in the first yearwith the prize alternating between thetwo organizations in following years.For the PeopleA N e w s l e t t e r o f t h e A b r a h a m L i n c o l n A s s o c i a t i o n1 O l d S t a t e C a p i t o l P l a z aS p r i n g f i e l d , I l l i n o i s 6 2 7 0 1Nonprofit OrganizationU.S. PostagePAIDSpringfield, IllinoisPermit No. 263FORWARDING AND RETURN POSTAGE GUARANTEEDADDRESS SERVICE REQUESTED

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