The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has announced the installation of a life-size painting of President Abraham Lincoln by artist W.F.K. Travers. Created from life in 1865, the 9-foot-tall oil on canvas is one of three known, life-size paintings of the 16th president. The historic work comes to the National Portrait Gallery on long-term loan from the Hartley Dodge Foundation, whose founder, Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge, acquired the painting from her family in the 1930s. The Portrait Gallery will display the Travers painting in the museum’s ongoing “America’s Presidents” exhibition beginning Feb. 10.
The installation will precede the museum’s Presidential Family Fun Day, which will offer activities for all ages, including tours of “America’s Presidents” and the exhibition’s new tactile display. The festival will take place in the museum’s Kogod Courtyard Saturday, Feb. 18, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free.
“It is a pleasure to reunite the Travers painting with Gilbert Stuart’s Lansdowne portrait of George Washington—a highlight of the Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection—roughly 147 years after the two paintings were first displayed together at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia,” said Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery. “Congress debated purchasing the painting for the Capitol on numerous occasions in the late 19th and early 20th century, so it is fitting that the Portrait Gallery was able to bring this work back to Washington, D.C., in collaboration with the Hartley Dodge Foundation.”
“Travers’ painting only adds to the story of the ‘America’s Presidents’ exhibition,” said Nicolas W. Platt, president of the Hartley Dodge Foundation. “It is rich with symbolism that speaks to Lincoln’s history and accomplishments. Next to the Constitution you see the artist’s nod to the Thirteenth Amendment, which Lincoln supported, and the globe in the background is positioned on Haiti, as Lincoln was the first to recognize it as an independent nation in 1862.”
The new loan will be joined by another new addition to “America’s Presidents.” Beginning Feb. 7, a new tactile display will offer a more inclusive experience of the Portrait Gallery’s casts of Lincoln’s face and hands. Designed for blind visitors and those with low vision, the new display will present a free-standing structure with 3D-printed copies of one face mask by Leonard Volk and one face mask and a set of two hands by Clark Mills. It will be positioned next to the glass-enclosed plaster casts from 1917 (based on the originals by Volk in 1860 and Mills in 1865). The presentation will include object information in braille and new audio content featuring guided descriptions and further historical insight. By engaging these additional senses, the Lincoln tactile display will enhance the experience of the objects for all visitors.