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Abraham Lincoln by George Henry Story

This portrait of Abraham Lincoln was painted by George Henry Story (1835–1922) in 1915. Story was born in New Haven, Connecticut and initially worked as a wood-carver. In the mid-1830s, he traveled to Europe to study painting, and on his return in 1858, opened a studio in Portland, Maine. By 1860, he had moved to Washington, DC, where he was asked to help pose President Lincoln for his first official presidential photograph. Story took the opportunity to make sketches of the President, which he later used to create several portraits. Of his time in the Oval Office, he wrote, “On three successive days I quietly entered the president’s office and made pencil notes of my subject and mental observations of the changes in his countenance while he was . . . under the influence of state affairs in the different interviews with his visitors. After each sitting I returned to my room and worked upon my picture with my sitter as vividly in mind almost as though he were in my actual presence.”

Story recalled that he made additional renderings in 1915 because he couldn’t find a portrait of Lincoln in any of Washington’s public galleries or departmental buildings. Copies now hang in the White House, the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum, and several other institutions.

What do each of these elements contribute to the overall impression: the framing, the pose, the light, the color, the dress, the profile, the gaze, the brow, the nose, the chin, and the expression? How well does this portrait capture the man you think you know and have read about in this book?

Return to The Meaning of Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday.

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