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The Presidents as Portraits in History

- - Sanny Tendilla

By Kathleen Burch

Americans enjoy visiting Washington that provides tours to let people see centuries-old buildings and monuments. Art lovers can get a special view of the nation's past by viewing the 43 Official Presidential Portraits. Some of the oil paintings are on display at the White House, at the choice of the sitting president, while the others can be seen at the National Gallery of Art.

A renowned portrait artist of his day, Gilbert Stuart, began painting George Washington in 1797. When the British troops torched the White House in the War of 1812, First Lady Dolley Madison saved the painting. The $1 adorns the incomplete painting of the other Stuart painting of the first president.

There are fascinating stories of Presidential Portraits all throughout history. When Theodore Roosevelt had his first painting done, he hated it, so John Singer Sargent re did it. Sargent spent time following the president around to get the right light and pose. It was not long before the president grew inpatient, exchanging heated words on a staircase that lead to the second floor. Sargent caught a picture just as Roosevelt was gripping the banister.

The painting of Woodrow Wilson by an English artist, Sir William Orpen, is considered one of the most interesting of the Presidential Series. As the president was on stage at the Paris Peace Conference that followed World War I, the Irish painter was able to catch up with the president. The painting was never finished. The canvas's bottom was never finished, making it a work in progress, much like the Paris peace conference was.

As photography developed in the 20th century. Presidential oil paintings were commissioned until after the president let office. So John F. Kennedy was painted posthumously by Aaron Shikler in 1970. This is possibly the most touching picture in the series. Kennedy looks downward with his arms crossed as he appears brooding and pensive. The work looks like a reflection of the legacy left by him.

Simmie Knox made history by becoming the first African-American to paint a Presidential Portrait with Bill Clinton, the 42nd president. Clinton is relaxed in this picture with his hand in his pocket. It is the first in the Presidential Portrait series to feature an American Flag.

George W. Bush asked one of his Yale classmates, Robert A. Anderson to paint his portrait. A seated Bush. The president was sitting relaxed and smiling and it seemed a request for the American people to look at him more favorably. Bush was excited, eager to reveal his painting. The picture displayed at the National Portrait Gallery on the 19th of December, 2008, This picture stayed on display in the National Portrait Gallery until December 19, 2008 before Barack Obama's inauguration.

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