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Archive for February 26th, 2011

Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809. I had the privilege of drawing visitors at the Chicago History Museum on the bicentennial of his birth—not just on the birthday itself, but for a whole year after that.  He is probably even more beloved than Washington, owing to his humble origins, his wit and certainly to the fact that for him we have actual photographs. He knew he wasn’t photogenic.  One of the stories he told was that a woman in public once told him that with a face like that he should stay indoors.   During his presidency, Lincoln was often photographed and getting an appealing likeness of his craggy face and obstreperous hair must have been a challenge to the  photographer’s skills in lighting and posing.  The most approachable photos of him are by the Scottish born photographer Alexander Gardner and I chose Gardner’s full frontal shot of the face for my drawing.  It’s still an extremely melancholy Lincoln I was looking at, but I tried to suggest that he was thoughtful rather than sad or suffering from illness by putting a pile of books on the bench he’s sitting on.  I knew I would be drawing a lot of kids on school outings to the museum.  So, yes, books would not only be appropriate as a prop for Lincoln but would also serve as a reminder to the kids.  Read books!!

Imagine this drawing framed in Audrey’s (shown here) room.  When she learns about Lincoln in school or sees the Lincoln sculpture by Daniel Chester French in Grant Park, she will feel a personal connection to the president and perhaps write an extra fine term paper on him.  That’s worth my effort.

The drawing of Lincoln was Xeroxed on gloss paper, the kind I draw on in China Marker.   The visitor who wanted to be drawn with Lincoln was then drawn as if sitting on his thigh or sharing the bench with him.  The addition of the visitor blended in perfectly with the Lincoln already on the paper.

Some ten to twelve-year-olds knew very little about Lincoln and some—especially the ones wearing Lincoln t-shirts—were Lincoln scholars and couldn’t contain themselves in reciting all the things they knew about the president.

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All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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