Monday, June 18, 2007

Six months in the White House..The story of a not so great painting that could have been an amazing one.. by Francis Carpenter 1830-1900

Francis Carpenter 1830-1900..His unique painting of the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation was made over a period of years.(although it was finished in 1864, it was added too for years).. Was not accepted by the government till quite a while after it was painted.
He wrote a book on the event, of which I am lucky to have a copy. It gives the story from this artists perspective as to how a painting was created. It was published within a year of the assassination and it seems Carpenter made the most of his association with Lincoln. Which as far as I can see makes sense, one should if in such a remarkable position. The sad part is, I wonder how great a painting we could have had if the artist was of a higher quality.

Here is the bookend and the cover page of his 1866 narrative on his his 6 month association with Lincoln in the White House

Carpenter had a good pull on Lincoln it seems and he had a number of photographs made of Lincoln to aid with his painting. But when one looks at the painting you wonder what he was really looking at.

Carpenter was a good artist, NOT a great one. He spent a lot of time retouching parts of the work. Till it was so retouched to look amateurish!!

The engravings of the work are far better than Carpenter's original as he just did what many a good cook can do..he worked too long on his masterpiece and spoiled the broth.

He just retouched it till it was awful!

After its exhibition in the principal northern cities in 1865, it was purchased by Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson for $25,000, and presented to the government; and it now hangs on the staircase of the house of representatives in Washington.

It seems The United States government was not very interested in it at all. Understandably so, as it was not a good piece of art.

Robinson as he aged lost much of his artistic ability, yet worked hard to capitalize on his association with Lincoln.

Lincoln trying to look like he is at his cabinet table from a Brady photo on a broken negative from Carpenter's notebook.. Carpenter was given wonderful access to the President and was a Nocturnal companion to him on many of the President's sleepless nights.

Here we have 3 photos of Lincoln in his office at his cabinet table. The first one above here he is sitting with Francis Carpenter. Carpenter's legs are seen here. He would reincorporate this into the picture using the legs as seen here to fit with William Seward.
Sadly he left most of the other features I see in the photos out of the picture. The wall paper for one and the many pictures on the mantel. It had the chance to be great, but was reduced to being good.
The second one he is standing by his cabinet table. Although the picture is blurry, they are the only photos of Lincoln's office made. You can see Lincoln's stand up desk placed in a doorway to block access as the President was an easy target to talk to and bother in those early days.

Carpenter spent a lot of time taking pictures and documenting the office. Today in the rebuilt White House, Lincoln's office was in the basic location of what is the Lincoln bedroom that is popular with Presidential guests. The last is of Lincoln sitting at his chair at his cabinet table. This is a poor picture and out of focus. I have not helped the matter. But another unissued at the time picture of the President. There were a few others used by Carpenter that I have not added so not to bore you too much. But to end this all I will say it was a wonderful idea that was not too well conceived and would have been better served by being a posed photograph.
For as we know many historic photos of historic events were not taken at the exact moment the historic event was taking place, but after when they all discovered how historic the moment was!!!!!

But that is another story and it will be a real good one!