The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

November 2000
Online exhibition created to complement the exhibition "The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden," at the National Museum of American History.

The Artful Presidency, an online exhibition, is presented by the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art to celebrate the connections between American artists and the American presidency from George Washington to the Carter administration. It complements the exhibition "The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden," at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, which opened November 15, 2000.

Included are letters to artists from Presidents Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt; a handwritten poem by John Quincy Adams, extolling the wonders of sculptor Hiram Powers; photographs and printed ephemera documenting President Benjamin Harrison's Western Tour in 1891; a volume of sketches presented to Mollie Garfield in 1883, following the assassination of her father, President James A. Garfield; the diary of painter Rubens Peale recounting the news of Abraham Lincoln's assassination in April 1865; photographs of Presidents Benjamin Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, and Dwight D. Eisenhower; presidential caricatures; and letters and memoirs of presidential portrait painters such as Thomas Eakins and Greta Kempton.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Theodore Roosevelt dedicating the Navy Monument

Theodore Roosevelt dedicating the Navy Monument, 1903 May 14

A photograph of Theodore Roosevelt dedicating the Navy Monument in San Francisco's Union Square. On the morning of May 14, 1903, a crowd gathered to witness the event honoring Admiral George Dewey and the American Navy for their victory over Spanish forces at the Philippines' Manila Bay, on May 1, 1898.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Rembrandt Peale letter to C. Edwards (Charles Edwards) Lester

Rembrandt Peale letter to C. Edwards (Charles Edwards) Lester, 1846 Mar. 16

Creator: Rembrandt Peale

Peale discusses a a change he wishes to make in his poem "Peale's Washington," about his portrait of General George Washington, pointing out that Gilbert Stuart's portrait of Washington was painted at the same time as his, "Washington giving Stewart [sic] his first sitting, between my first and second."

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Rembrandt Peale

Rembrandt Peale, ca. 1846

Creator: Rembrandt Peale

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Washington, from the original portrait painted by Rembrandt Peale

Washington, from the original portrait painted by Rembrandt Peale, 179-?

Creator: Rembrandt Peale

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Ebenezer Hazard

Ebenezer Hazard, 1800 Feb. 13

Creator: Ebenezer Hazard

Letter from Ebenezer Hazard (1744-1817), New York publisher, historian, and bookseller, to Samuel Breese, February 13, 1800, describing encounters with President John Adams in Charleston, South Carolina, among other matters. Hazard writes about the popularity of the ladies in his party: "We have been gratified with the Company of our Charlestown Friends for a Fortnight; they have had very great attention paid them, I assure you, & that by great Folks too, such as Members of Congress, the President of the U. States, etc., and they are to dine with the President today. I am glad Abby happened to be here as it furnished an opportunity of introducing her into company to which she could not otherwise so easily have had access. She had the honor of drinking tea at the President's t'other day and had polite attention paid her, - as had my wife too:- this is an addition to her 'good luck' which the Shrewsbury Fortune Teller did not foresee. She looked charmingly, & I have been 'mightily pleased' since to hear that a lady in the company asked another who that handsome lady was. The President's Lady has since called & returned their visit. -Yesterday afternoon they drank tea at Mr. Boudinot's (or Mrs. Bradford's) in company with Cousin Rush's Lady, Mrs. Blair, & a great variety besides; - & you must not be surprised if you should hear before long that Abby has been at one of Mrs. Adams's Levees; for this is in contemplation. I hope you will do as I did when I builded, - lay an Iron Bar lengthwise of the sill of your Street Door, to keep it from being worn out."

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Andrew Jackson letter to Hiram Powers

Andrew Jackson letter to Hiram Powers, 1835 Dec. 7

Creator: Andrew Jackson

A letter from Andrew Jackson, Dec. 7, 1835, to sculptor Hiram Powers, accepting a sculpture likeness of the late Chief Justice Marshall that Powers had just completed. The two first made acquaintance in the fall of 1834, when the sculptor came to Washington, D.C. After several sittings with the President, Powers completed his first bust of Jackson in January 1835.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

John James Abert letter to G. P. A. (George Peter Alexander) Healy

John James Abert letter to G. P. A. (George Peter Alexander) Healy, 1842 May 30

Creator: John James Abert

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Diary entry, which recounts the news of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination and funeral procession

Diary entry, which recounts the news of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination and funeral procession, 1865 Apr.

Creator: Rubens Peale

April 15, 1865 page from the diaries of Rubens Peale Peale, a still life and animal painter, was 81 on April 15, 1865, when he recorded the "sad news of the murder of President Lincon [sic], he was shot while attending a performance at Fords' Theater last night in Washington. The assassin entered his private box and shot him in back of his head and then escaped, the assassin's name is ______," and there Peale left a blank, presumably to fill in when the information was available. Peale, who was in Philadelphia, described the arrival of Lincoln's body to the city, the crowds, and other funeral details. On April the 22nd he wrote, "The corpse arrived this afternoon from Harrisburg and it was dark, and although the square was brilliantly illuminated with greek lights each side of the great walk Red, Blue & White, which made a most brilliant appearance and lighted up the wholes square & streets [even?] yet much of the procession near lost to us. The crowd was so dence [sic] in Walnut Street that police could scarcely keep the crowd back." The following day, the elderly Peale stood on line for most of the morning attempting to view the corpse, but pressing crowds forced him to give up just as he reached the entrance to the hall. That evening he and his daughter Mary Jane were granted permission to enter a back door affording "a fine opportunity of viewing the corpse and decorations of the hall, which was totally covered with black cloth except the statue & portraits of General Washington & wife. I staid [sic] one hour and left Mary gazing on the corpse, she intending to paint a portrait of him..."

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Howard Finster letter to Barbara Shissler Nosanow

Howard Finster letter to Barbara Shissler Nosanow, 1981

Creator: Howard Finster

A letter, 1981, from the visionary artist Reverend Howard Finster (b. 1916) to Smithsonian curator Barbara Shissler. Finster writes about his trip to Washington, D.C., for the opening of the exhibition More Than Land or Sky: Art from Appalachia, at the National Collection of Fine Arts (now the Smithsonian American Art Museum) in 1981. The exhibition included works by Finster and his traveling companions from Georgia, Art Rosenbaum and Andy Nasisse. Finster illustrated his letter with a pantheon of notable figures -- Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, William Henry Harrison, Andrew Jackson, William Shakespeare, and Barbara Shissler.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Thomas Eakins letter to Charles Henry Hart

Thomas Eakins letter to Charles Henry Hart, 1912 Sept. 13

Creator: Thomas Eakins

a letter from painter Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) to collector Charles Henry Hart (1847-1918). Eakins describes his "far from conventional" portrait of President Rutherford B. Hayes: "The President once posed. I never saw him in the same pose again. He wrote, took notes, stood up, swung his chair around. In short, I had to construct him as I would a little animal."

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Map insert from the Itinerary of the Tour of  President Harrison to the Pacific Coast

Map insert from the Itinerary of the Tour of President Harrison to the Pacific Coast, 1891

Creator: George Elbert Burr

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Cover of Itinerary. The President’s Special Train. Denver & Rio Grande

Cover of Itinerary. The President’s Special Train. Denver & Rio Grande, 1891 May

Creator: George Elbert Burr

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

itinerary autographed by those on President Benjamin Harrison's Western tour of the United States to the Pacific Coast

itinerary autographed by those on President Benjamin Harrison's Western tour of the United States to the Pacific Coast, 1891 Apr. 14 through May 16

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Parade celebrating President Harrison's Pacific tour

Parade celebrating President Harrison's Pacific tour, 1891 Apr. 14 through May 16

Creator: George Elbert Burr

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

President Benjamin Harrison's ship arriving in  Seattle during his Western tour of the United States

President Benjamin Harrison's ship arriving in Seattle during his Western tour of the United States, 1891 Apr. 14 through May 16

Creator: George Elbert Burr

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

President Benjamin Harrison in Royal Gorge, Seattle, Wash. during his Western tour of the United States

President Benjamin Harrison in Royal Gorge, Seattle, Wash. during his Western tour of the United States, 1891 Apr. 14 through May 16

Creator: George Elbert Burr

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

President Benjamin Harrison in Salt Lake City, Utah during his Western tour of the United States

President Benjamin Harrison in Salt Lake City, Utah during his Western tour of the United States, 1891 Apr. 14 through May 16

Creator: George Elbert Burr

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

President Benjamin Harrison at City Hall, Los Angeles, Calif. during his Western tour of the United States

President Benjamin Harrison at City Hall, Los Angeles, Calif. during his Western tour of the United States, 1891 Apr. 14 through May 16

Creator: George Elbert Burr

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

President Harrison Leaving Stanford Jr. University

President Harrison Leaving Stanford Jr. University, 1891 Apr. 14 through May 16

Creator: George Elbert Burr

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Presidential Party at Cypress Hill, Monterey, California

Presidential Party at Cypress Hill, Monterey, California, between 1891 Apr. 14 and May 16

Creator: George Elbert Burr

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

President Harrison at El Paso, Texas

President Harrison at El Paso, Texas, between 1891 Apr. 14 and May 16

Creator: George Elbert Burr

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Theodore Roosevelt, Washington, D.C. letter to Clifford Berryman, Washington, D.C.

Theodore Roosevelt, Washington, D.C. letter to Clifford Berryman, Washington, D.C., 1902 Dec. 29

Creator: Theodore Roosevelt

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Postcard designed for Theodore Roosevelt

Postcard designed for Theodore Roosevelt, 1909 Apr. 17

Creator: Clifford Berryman

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Clifford Berryman's scrapbook

Clifford Berryman's scrapbook, 1900

Creator: Clifford Berryman

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

William Daniel Murphy letter to Harriet Anderson Stubbs Murphy

William Daniel Murphy letter to Harriet Anderson Stubbs Murphy, 1905 Feb. 5

Creator: William Daniel Murphy

letter dated February 5, 1905, about President Theodore Roosevelt walking through Jackson Park William Daniel Murphy (1834-1928) and his wife Harriet Anderson Stubbs Murphy (1951-1935) collaborated on portraits; he photographed subjects and she painted portraits from those images. Early in 1905, Murphy traveled to Washington hoping to sell a portrait of the late President William McKinley, and to photograph Theodore Roosevelt. He wrote almost daily to his wife in New York, vividly describing the people who would serve as her subjects. In this letter, he observes that "...his pants are too short - he walks with a bounding step and looks mostly at the pavement ahead of him - his coat is short (a Prince Albert) and silk hat and figured vest - both hands down - all alone - two men 40 ft. behind him called detectives trying to keep up with him no gloves on - hands pink - not too much color in face hair brown - shade lighter than mine - slightest tinge of warmth in ugly mustache - no sand or red." Although Harriet was the trained artist and painted the portraits, they were always signed "D. W. Murphy."

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Woodrow Wilson letter to Clifford Berryman

Woodrow Wilson letter to Clifford Berryman, 1916 Dec. 04

Creator: Woodrow Wilson

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson, and Vice-President Thomas Riley Marshall

Inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson, and Vice-President Thomas Riley Marshall, 1917

Creator: Woodrow Wilson

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Edith Bolling Wilson letter to Clifford Berryman

Edith Bolling Wilson letter to Clifford Berryman, 1917 Feb. 10

Creator: Edith Bolling Wilson

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Edith Bolling Wilson letter to Clifford Berryman

Edith Bolling Wilson letter to Clifford Berryman, 1917 Feb. 10

Creator: Edith Bolling Wilson

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Samuel J. Woolf sketch of President Calvin Coolidge

Samuel J. Woolf sketch of President Calvin Coolidge, 1923

Creator: S. J. (Samuel Johnson) Woolf

Woolf gained a national reputation drawing celebrity portraits for Collier's. Beginning in 1923, his portraits, along with his written accounts of the sittings, were featured as "personality interviews" in the New York Times.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Herbert Hoover letter to Alice Barber Stephens

Herbert Hoover letter to Alice Barber Stephens, 1917 July 12

Creator: Herbert Hoover

Letter from President Herbert Hoover to Alice Barber Stephens Letter from then Head of the U.S. Food Administration from president-to-be Herbert Hoover to Alice Barber Stephens, July 12, 1917, thanking her for her "splendid picture of the woman with the hoe working in the garden....It will be very helpful in our campaign to make use of the volunteer spirit of our country in conserving the food supply." The painting, titled War Gardens, was a response to Charles Dana Gibson's appeal to design "posters with a punch back of them." It is now in the collection of the Library of Congress.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Herbert Hoover and his dog 'King Tut'

Herbert Hoover and his dog 'King Tut', 1928

Creator: Theodore Horydczak

An autographed photograph of soon-to-be President Hoover with his dog, 1928. In this campaign photo, the president poses with his dog, "King Tut." Though he was perhaps the cutest, King Tut was not the only White House pet. Hoover's second son, Allan Henry Hoover, had two alligators that were at times permitted to roam around the White House.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Mrs. Hoover to Benson Bond Moore

Mrs. Hoover to Benson Bond Moore, 1930 May 24

Creator: Lou Hoover

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Mrs. Hoover to Benson Bond Moore

Mrs. Hoover to Benson Bond Moore, 1931 Sept. 10

Creator: Benson Bond Moore

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Franklin D. (Franklin Delano) Roosevelt

Franklin D. (Franklin Delano) Roosevelt, 1940 July 08

Creator: Franklin D. (Franklin Delano) Roosevelt

A letter from Rooselvelt to Clifford Berryman, July 8, 1940 thanking him "for that cartoon from the Star of July third. It has both a humor and a whimsicality which often find their way into your work and make it a joy to the beholder. I am delighted to have the original and greatly appreciate the cordial sentiments which you inscribed on it and which I heartily reciprocate." Berryman has included the cartoon with the letter for his scrapbook.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Franklin D. Roosevelt letter to Edward Bruce

Franklin D. Roosevelt letter to Edward Bruce, 1939 Dec. 28

Creator: Franklin D. (Franklin Delano) Roosevelt

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Edward Bruce letter to Franklin D. (Franklin Delano) Roosevelt

Edward Bruce letter to Franklin D. (Franklin Delano) Roosevelt, 1940 Sept. 11

Creator: Edward Bruce

Correspondence between Edward "Ned" Bruce and Franklin D. Roosevelt relating to Bruce's work as Chief of one of Roosevelt's New Deal art programs, the Section of Painting and Sculpture (later the Section of Fine Arts), a program in the Treasury Department later reorganized under the Public Buildings Administration of the Federal Works Agency, established to administer the decoration of public buildings. Bruce was a key figure in Roosevelt's efforts to lift the country out of the Depression through relief projects, having directed one of the earliest programs, the Public Works of Art Project, from December 1933 - June 1934. In this brief exchange of September 1940, Bruce sends FDR a sketch of "men cutting ice" by artist Waldo Peirce, "an excellent artist [who] has done some good jobs for us." The picture was "one of the pictures you had liked when you saw the show [of New Deal art] at the Corcoran."

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Franklin D. (Franklin Delano) Roosevelt letter to Edward Bruce

Franklin D. (Franklin Delano) Roosevelt letter to Edward Bruce, 1940 Sept. 19

Creator: Franklin D. (Franklin Delano) Roosevelt

Correspondence between Edward "Ned" Bruce and Franklin D. Roosevelt relating to Bruce's work as Chief of one of Roosevelt's New Deal art programs, the Section of Painting and Sculpture (later the Section of Fine Arts), a program in the Treasury Department later reorganized under the Public Buildings Administration of the Federal Works Agency, established to administer the decoration of public buildings. Bruce was a key figure in Roosevelt's efforts to lift the country out of the Depression through relief projects, having directed one of the earliest programs, the Public Works of Art Project, from December 1933 - June 1934. In this brief exchange of September 1940, Bruce sends FDR a sketch of "men cutting ice" by artist Waldo Peirce, "an excellent artist [who] has done some good jobs for us." The picture was "one of the pictures you had liked when you saw the show [of New Deal art] at the Corcoran." Roosevelt responds on September 19th to say that he is "personally and very deeply appreciative of that delightful gift... chiefly because it was exactly what I had seen in the neighborhood of Hyde Park on Dutchess County ponds... I expect to put it into my own personal room in the new library at Hyde Park."

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Abbott Handerson Thayer, N.H. letter to Franklin D. (Franklin Delano) Roosevelt, Washington, D.C.

Abbott Handerson Thayer, N.H. letter to Franklin D. (Franklin Delano) Roosevelt, Washington, D.C., 1917 Sept. 3

Creator: Abbott Handerson Thayer

A letter from painter Abbott H. Thayer (1849-1921) to Franklin D. Roosevelt, September3, 1917, concerning camouflage for war vehicles. Thayer advises Roosevelt that he has been studying the "principles of Concealing Coloration for nearly a quarter of a century.... I entreat you to believe me that only a picked board of artists, and the more scientific ones, at that, are at all competent to test any scheme. ...I had learned by experiment that it took the brightest white on vertical surfaces to match the horizon sky in cloudy weather, which predominates 95% to 98% of the the time in the 'war zone'." Thayer's paintings also reveal an interest in camouflage.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Dedication of the Southside Community Art Center by Eleanor Roosevelt

Dedication of the Southside Community Art Center by Eleanor Roosevelt, 1941 May 7

Creator: Eleanor Roosevelt

Among the papers of Peter Pollack, the supervisor of community art centers of the Illinois Art Project, are papers relating to the May 7, 1941 dedication by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt of the Southside Community Art Center, in Chicago, a predominantly African American center in cooperation with the Illinois Federal Art Project. The dedication ceremony was nationally broadcast on the radio. Included is a scrapbook that includes the program for the dedication, and a letter from Locke concerning this event.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Eleanor Roosevelt with Alaine Locke and Peter Pollack

Eleanor Roosevelt with Alaine Locke and Peter Pollack, 1941

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Alaine Locke letter to Peter Pollack

Alaine Locke letter to Peter Pollack, 1941 May 7

Creator: Alaine Locke

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Dedication ceremony for the Southside Community Art Center by Eleanor Roosevelt

Dedication ceremony for the Southside Community Art Center by Eleanor Roosevelt, 1941 May 7

Creator: Eleanor Roosevelt

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Gene Davis' typescript on Harry S. Truman's sartorial distinction

Gene Davis' typescript on Harry S. Truman's sartorial distinction, ca. 1945

Creator: Gene Davis

Before Washington artist Gene Davis became famous for his striped paintings, he was a White House correspondent. Between 1945 and 1950, Davis wrote for Transradio Press, covering the end of WWII, as well as the Truman administration. Included among Davis's papers are his typescripts on such topics as the Presidential automobile, the White House as tourist Mecca, and the sartorial distinction of President Truman.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

The president's vacation cruise

The president's vacation cruise, 1946

Creator: Gene Davis

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Harry Truman at Gettysburg

Harry Truman at Gettysburg, 1946

Creator: Gene Davis

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Harry Truman in Key West, Florida

Harry Truman in Key West, Florida, 1947

Creator: Gene Davis

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Photograph of Harry Truman

Photograph of Harry Truman, 1946

Creator: Gene Davis

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Greta Kempton with Margaret Truman standing before Kempton's first portrait of Harry S. Truman

Greta Kempton with Margaret Truman standing before Kempton's first portrait of Harry S. Truman, 1948

Creator: Greta Kempton

Photograph of Kempton with Margaret Truman at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, (107881 bytes) Greta Kempton (1903-1991) painted five portraits of President Harry S. Truman, as well as portraits of Mrs. Truman, their daughter Margaret, and a group portrait of the Truman family. Kempton's papers include her written recollections of various sittings, as well as photographs. From her recollections, Kempton wrote about Truman: "We never lacked for conversation because he took my work seriously and had a limitless curiosity about my technique. He wanted to know about colors, about the brushes used and about the work of other painters. I found him a very good subject from a painter's point of view. He had expressive blue eyes, clear-cut features and the kind of fair skin that reflects the light. When he looked at me I felt he was trying to sum me up immediately."

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Unveiling of one of Greta Kempton's Truman portraits at the National Portrait Gallery

Unveiling of one of Greta Kempton's Truman portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, 1970

Creator: Greta Kempton

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Cartoon of President Truman

Cartoon of President Truman, ca. 1948

Creator: Fred Ellis

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

John F. (John Fitzgerald) Kennedy telegram to Robert Richman

John F. (John Fitzgerald) Kennedy telegram to Robert Richman, 1961 Jan. 13

Creator: John F. (John Fitzgerald) Kennedy

Telegram from President Elect and Mrs. Kennedy inviting poet Robert Richman, director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Washington, D.C., to the inaugural ceremonies on January 19 and 20, 1961. In addition to Richman, Kennedy invited numerous cultural figures, among them Robert Frost, who read one of his poems.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Marcel Breuer and Jacqueline Kennedy touring the construction of the Whitney Museum of American Art

Marcel Breuer and Jacqueline Kennedy touring the construction of the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1965 Oct. 21

Creator: Bob Noble

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Marcel Breuer and Jacqueline Kennedy touring the construction of the Whitney Museum of American Art

Marcel Breuer and Jacqueline Kennedy touring the construction of the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1965 Oct. 21

Creator: Bob Noble

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Marcel Breuer and Jacqueline Kennedy touring the construction of the Whitney Museum of American Art

Marcel Breuer and Jacqueline Kennedy touring the construction of the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1965 Oct. 21

Creator: Bob Noble

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Hyannis Port, Mass. letter to James Whitney Fosburgh

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Hyannis Port, Mass. letter to James Whitney Fosburgh, 1961 Sept. 13

Creator: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

When Jacqueline Kennedy began a project to renovate the White House in1961, she found a "crying need for some good American pictures" as there was "really nothing but late nineteenth century Presidents in black." She called on James Whitney Fosburgh to serve as the chairman of the committee to select American pictures for the executive mansion, writing, "It is my greatest hope to acquire permanently for the White House all the finest from this country's past. I think it should have pictures by Stuart, Trumbull, Peale, Hicks, Audubon, Sargent, Whistler, Homer, Eakins, Currier & Ives (bedrooms) Mary Cassatt, Remington - and so many others that I am sure you will be able to think of - All the most important periods should be represented - except the really modern ones - as it is a period house - or will be - but we can think of some solution to that." Keenly aware of the effect her interest would have on the American art market she noted, "Every time the price leaks out it causes trouble...so I wouldn't mind if you rounded up a few less important pictures - which we could find donors for - though of course we must hope to have the great ones too - We will just never make their price available to the papers." Later she declined a buying trip: "I seem to be pursued by lady reporters whenever I come to New York - who write so extravagantly about buying sprees for the White House - that I feel it only makes the price go up."

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Joan Adams Mondale letter to Barbara Fendrick

Joan Adams Mondale letter to Barbara Fendrick, ca. 1977

Creator: Joan Adams Mondale

While her husband Walter Mondale served as Vice President in the Carter administration, Joan Mondale (b. 1930), was a strong advocate for American art. In 1977, President Carter appointed her Honorary Chairperson of the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. She took a leadership role in promoting American craft, using their official residence as a showcase for the work Wendell Castle, Marguerite Wildenhain, David Gilhooly, John Glick, Sam Maloof, and others. In this letter to art dealer Barbara Fendrick, Mrs. Mondale thanks her for sending her a purse by fiber artist Maria da Conceicao. She added: "I feel very fortunate that there are so many wonderful people involved in the arts and that I was able to be friends with so many of them, such as you!"

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Baron Moens de Fernig

President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Baron Moens de Fernig, ca. 1958

Creator: James S. (James Sachs) Plaut

From the James S. Plaut papers, [ca. 1929]-1980, is a photograph of (Left to right): President Dwight D. Eisenhower; Baron Moens de Fernig, Commissioner of the 1958 Brussels World's Fair, pointing to photographs of the fair; The Belgian Ambassador; and James Plaut, the Deputy U.S. Commissioner to the Brussel's World's Fair, at The White House in 1958. Plaut was also director of Boston's Institute of Modern Art, Secretary General of the World's Craft Council, and a consultant on industrial design in Israel.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Benjamin West letter to Charles Willson Peale

Benjamin West letter to Charles Willson Peale, 1783 June 15

Creator: Benjamin West

A native of Pennsylvania, West settled in England in 1762. He became one of the best known painters and teachers of his time. One of his American students, Charles Willson Peale, had written to West after the Revolution to ask if there might be a market in England for a portrait of General Washington. In his reply, West congratulates "you and my Countrymen in general" for their fortitude and wisdom in the war. He looks forward to the painting of Washington which Peale is sending, and asks for drawings of the uniforms worn by the American army.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Warren Chappell letter to Isabel Bishop

Warren Chappell letter to Isabel Bishop, not before 1975

Creator: Warren Chappell

From the Isabel Bishop papers, 1930-1985, this letter to Isabel Bishop from illustrator Warren Chappell (1904-1991) shows George Washington on "Father of his Country Day," in pursuit of a fleeing Martha. The cartoon is among many Chappell sent to Bishop during their long-standing friendship. Watercolor and ink on paper.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

James D. Preston autograph book

James D. Preston autograph book, 1904-1924

Creator: James D. Preston

The Archives of American Art has several sketches of and relating to Theodore Roosevelt, contained in an album of sketches collected by James David Preston during his thirty-five years as Superintendent of the United States Senate Press Gallery in Washington, D.C. In describing the volume, Preston's son Edward noted: "Some sketches were made also at national political conventions, where my father managed all press arrangements. A few additional sketches have been included from my own scrap book, started when I accompanied my father to the Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City, in the summer of 1924...I hope it will prove an inspiration to editorial cartoonists of the present and the future."

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Poem to Hiram Powers

Poem to Hiram Powers, 180-

A handwritten poem by John Quincy Adams, March 25, 1837, extolling the work of the sculptor Hiram Powers (1805-1873), after Powers had modelled a bust of Adams. 1 page, 21 x 13.5 cm. handwritten poem by John Quincy Adams, March 25, 1837 (53155 bytes) To Hiram Powers. Sculptor, thy hand has moulded into form The haggard features of a toil-worn face; And whosoever views thy work shall trace An age of Sorrow, and a Life of Storm. And, canst thou mould the Heart? for that...... is warm; Glowing with tenderness for all its race: Instinct with all the Sympathies that grace The pure and artless bosoms where they swarm. Artist! may Fortune smile upon thy hand! Go forth, and rival Greece's art sublime: Return....and bid the statesmen of thy Land Live in thy marble through all after-time. Oh! snatch the fire from Heaven Prometheus stole; And give the lifeless block, a breathing Soul. John Quincy Adams. Washington 25: March 1837.

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The Artful Presidency: Selections from the Archives of American Art

Illustrated memorial album for Mollie Garfield

Illustrated memorial album for Mollie Garfield, 1882-1883

Twenty-six signed sketches by American artists, presented to Mollie Garfield following the assassination of her father, President James A. Garfield. A sketch of cherry blossoms dated July 1883 is by the painter William Henry Holmes (1846-1933), who served as the Smithsonian's Curator of the National Gallery of Art from 1907 to 1920, and as its director from 1920 to 1932.

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