Library Catalog - Kentucky Historical Society

Object Record

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Object Name Portrait
Title Abraham Lincoln
Catalog Number 1939.49
Creator Williams, Charles Sneed
Date 1932
Material(s) Paint/Canvas
Dimensions H-62.5 W-51 D-3.75 inches
Description This is a three-quarter portrait of a beardless Abraham Lincoln. It is an oil on canvas, and it was painted by Charles Sneed Williams. Williams' signature is in the upper right hand corner and it reads, "Charles Sneed Williams, 1932." Lincoln is depicted with dark hair that is combed and parted on his left side. He is wearing a black suit jacket and pants with a white shirt, tan vest, and black bow tie. He is wearing a dark cloak. His right hand is grasping onto his jacket lapel. His left hand is holding a top hat, and it is propped up on his left knee. In the right background, there is a column or pillar. The rest of the background is comprised of shades of tan, brown, and black. The black and gold wood and plaster frame has floral plaster castings at the corners.
Notes On January 29, 1929, the Kentucky Historical Society Executive Committee decided to commission "a suitable portrait" of Abraham Lincoln to be placed in the Old State Capitol Building in Frankfort. Funds for the painting were raised through a "Lincoln Gift Box," which received donations, large and small, by adults and children from throughout Kentucky, the United States, and the world. Miss Mary Mason Scott, Mrs. John Peyton Hobson, and Mrs. Jouett Taylor Cannon directed the artist selection and portrait acquisition. The committee selected Charles Sneed Williams (1882-1964), a well-respected, Kentucky-born painter, then living and working in London and Chicago. In the resulting portrait, Williams sought to capture what he called Lincoln's "greatness," by which he meant: a quality which seems to me to rise far beyond all political or even historical boundaries-beyond even his fame-a quality of greatness of spirit, a quality which for many years made him to me the human man at his highest point-no superman but a warm-hearted being. The Society paid the artist $1,288.30, the balance of his usual fee being a contribution of his own. The painting was unveiled at the Boone Day festivities on June 7, 1932. Louis A. Warren, director of the Lincoln Historical Research Foundation of The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company in Fort Wayne, Indiana, gave the dedicatory talk.

Charles Sneed Williams was unable to attend to the unveiling of his painting on Boone Day in 1932. Prior to the event, he wrote with some commentary on the portrait. "The portrait is, you see, in no sense a copy, but was built up from life with the casts and studies I made from the various portraits and status to work from." Williams used casts made from Abraham Lincoln's hands in order to paint the hands in portrait. Williams used a life mask that was made shortly after Lincoln's nomination for president. The costume was studied from a series of photographs, and in addition, Williams was able to secure a full costume from the famous costume maker, Nathan, in London, along with the services of a professional model for posture sittings in the costume.
Collection KHS Museum Collection
People Williams, Charles Sneed
Lincoln, Abraham
Subjects Painting
Portrait paintings
Presidential candidates
Oil paintings
Search Terms Portrait
Portrait Paintings
Physical Holder Kentucky Historical Society - KHS