Saturday, September 02, 2006

Two versions of Lincoln

Above is my hometown version of Lincoln -- by George Gray Barnard (1863-1938) --- depicting him just as I want to remember him: as homely, homespun, awkward, confused but also . honest, simple, sincere, and noble.

And below is a version done by almost an exact contemporary, Charles Mulligan (1866-1916)-- who happens to be one of the founders of my art club, the Palette and Chisel.

So my loyalties here are divided -- but the more I compare the two -- the more the Chicago Lincoln seems more like just another windbag politician -- a corrupted characature of leadership, rather than the real thing. And why is he delivering his oration to all those dead soldiers ?

I think that Mulligan, born in Ireland, just didn't get it - i.e. he wasn't thinking like an American.. yet.

But I like some of the details

And especially these views from the back -- which have nothing in particular to do with Lincoln.

... and neither does this portrait.. have anything to do with that head that seemed to offer such a good opportunity to show strong character.

The more I think about the hollow gestures shown above -- the more I'm suspecting a deep sense of cynicism in the sculptor.

And what better place for a monument to sleazy politicans -- than a graveyard ?


Blogger shilgia said...

Interesting essay.

The first Lincoln you show is so different, so un-statesmanlike. What did people think about it at the time it was made? Were human depictions of great men accepted and common?

(As a non-American I admit that I know virtually nothing about Lincoln, so I don't know which character traits should have been represented in a statue.)

September 04, 2006  
Blogger chris miller said...

Americans are immersed in Lincolnosity -- he's on our pennies, for God's sake, which, though a unit of currency that is worthless to adults, is utterly fascinating to children -- and the main thing about this image -- and most images -- is that the man is awkward and ugly -- perfectly fitting the gospel admonition that the "last shall be first"

Barnard (the sculptor of the first Lincoln that I showed) took these qualities farther than anyone else -- quite consciously, I think, turning him into something like a hermit-suffering- saint (Barnard was a big collector of medieval sculpture)

September 04, 2006  

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