Book review: “Mr. Lincoln Sitting for His Portrait: The Story of a Portrait That Became an American Icon, by Leonard S. Marcus

the grasp. Lincoln Sitting on His Portrait: The Story of a Portrait That Turned an American IconLeonard Marcus

Abraham Lincoln beloved kittens and the odor of wooden smoke. recited Shakespeare and informed soiled jokes; used “compromising, crafty and typically merciless,” As Adam Gopnik as soon as mentioned, to attain nice issues. Now, with the arrival of Leonard S. Marcus meticulously researches “Mr. Lincoln Sitting for His Portrait,” We are able to add one other side to our sixteenth President’s complicated character: the media manipulator.

Lincoln was an early adopter of the newest know-how of the day, pictures, and have become adept at utilizing it to border his personal legends. As Marcus factors out, “Each picture has a standpoint, revealing some points of its topic and hiding or concealing from others. Essentially the most highly effective photographs have the facility to crowd out competing factors of view and develop into the model of actuality that individuals bear in mind.” At this time’s Instagram and TikTok stars perceive this. So did Lincoln.

Marcus appears to be like at six iconic photos of Lincoln taken by Anthony Berger in Matthew Brady’s Washington, D.C. studio on February 9, 1864. However his gaze lingers on one particularly: an image of Lincoln studying to his youngest son, Tad. The portrait will play an vital function in Lincoln’s legacy. It depicts his loving and giving aspect, evoking the “uncanny energy of his phrases” and “the facility of books to bind generations collectively”. For some, it was additionally proof that Lincoln was a religious Christian. (Many viewers claimed that the picture confirmed the daddy and son pondering the Bible.)

However this image, we be taught, was some type of crap. The opposite 5 images have been taken by the point Mary Todd Lincoln arrived on the studio with Tad. Whereas Marcus does not make it clear, the concept of ​​a father-son image will need to have already been on Lincoln’s thoughts. What different purpose might there be for bringing a well-dressed boy – which is absolutely uncommon – to the picture shoot? As for the ebook in Lincoln’s fingers, it was a prop: a pattern catalog was discovered mendacity across the studio the place father and son pretended to learn. It was all a part of creating Lincoln’s picture.

It is a new premise, even when Marcus’ lens feels a bit too huge. In his introduction, he writes: “That is the story of that day and a type of photos.” However it is not till Chapter 7 that he lastly will get there – midway into the ebook.

Within the meantime, we have been supplied with the historical past of pictures, and informative views of Lincoln’s youth and White Home routine. We’re additionally launched to different artists who’ve portrayed Lincoln in varied media, together with Frances Carpenter, who captures the lion’s share of the narrative though he’s unrelated to those six photographs.

Some questions go unanswered. Marcus wrote that Lincoln “beloved the digicam” and left behind greater than 100 images. So why have been none of those taken together with his spouse, Mary?

And why did not he sit down for household images? For a media-savvy Lincoln, this will need to have been a selection. Do the photographs of his household not match the best way he needs the world to be seen?

Marcus has given younger readers the Abraham Lincoln of the twenty first century, a related and resonant particular person. Utilizing state-of-the-art know-how to current himself to the world, our sixteenth President has consciously manipulated his public persona by curating and sharing acceptable photographs. The center graders are positive to nod their heads in recognition.

Candace Fleming is the creator of a number of award-winning works of nonfiction for younger readers, together with The Lincoln: A Scrapbook Take a look at Abraham and Mary.

the grasp. Lincoln Sitting on His Portrait: The Story of a Portrait That Turned an American Icon | Written by Leonard S. Marcus | illustrated | 128 p. | Farrar, Strauss and Giroux | $19.99 | Ages 10 and up

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