Famous life-size Lincoln painting installed at National Portrait Gallery

A historic painting of President Abraham Lincoln has been installed in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in time for the upcoming Presidents’ Day weekend.

The nine-foot-tall framed oil painting is one of just three life-size paintings of the nation’s 16th president. Lincoln himself was no stranger to the building at 8th and G Streets NW, which houses the portrait gallery. The building once served as the U.S. Patent Office and its Great Hall was the site of the president’s second inaugural ball.

The Lincoln painting from the Hartley Dodge Foundation is on long term loan to the National Portrait Gallery, which shares the historic old Patent Building with the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Credit: “Abraham Lincoln,” Willem Frederik Karel Travers, oil on canvas, 1865. On loan from the Hartley Dodge Foundation, and courtesy of the citizens of the Borough of Madison, New Jersey. Photo by Joe Painter, Courtesy of the Hartley Dodge Foundation. (Courtesy Smithsonian Magazine)

The painting depicts Lincoln standing, clutching a copy of the U.S. Constitution on a desk with the 13th Amendment unfurled nearby. On a shelf above the desk is a bust of George Washington. In the background, a globe is positioned on Haiti, first recognized by Lincoln as an independent nation in 1862.

The W.F.K. Travers painting joins the Gilbert Stuart Landsdowne portrait of George Washington in the gallery’s “America’s Presidents” exhibit. Both paintings were first displayed together at the nation’s Centennial Exhibition in 1876 in Philadelphia.

The historic painting was created by Travers in 1865, the year that Lincoln died, assassinated at Ford’s Theater just a few blocks away. The Portrait Gallery is midway between Ford’s Theater on 10th Street and the Surratt Boarding Housing at 604 H Street NW where conspirators plotted his kidnapping.

The historic landmark building on H Street still stands and currently serves as the Wok and Roll Chinese Restaurant and Karaoke Bar.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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