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Abraham Lincoln Portraits at the White House

Abraham Lincoln Portraits at the White House

Presidential Portraits of Abraham Lincoln

“Abraham Lincoln” by George Peter Alexander Healy shows the United States’ 16th President in contemplation, leaning forward in a chair, with his elbow on his knee and his chin resting on his hand.

Lincoln’s pose was inspired by an earlier painting Healy made titled the “The Peacemakers,” which depicts Lincoln and others in a historic 1865 strategy discussion with the Union high command during the final days of the American Civil War.

Lincoln sat for Healy in 1864, and Healy began working on his sketches to create a portrait of Lincoln. After Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, Healy conceived of “The Peacemakers,” which he completed in 1868.

In 1869, 4 years after Lincoln’s assassination, Healy decided to create a new portrait removing the members of Lincoln’s high command to focus only on Lincoln. 

In 1869, Congress authorized the commission of a portrait of Lincoln to hang in the White House. Healy sent this portrait to Washington, hoping it would be chosen.

However, Ulysses S. Grant, then the President of the United States, selected another portrait painted by William F. Cogswell (see below).

Robert Todd Lincoln, Lincoln’s son, purchased Healy’s portrait and claimed:

“I have never seen a portrait of my father, which is to be compared with it in any way.”

The portrait passed to Robert Todd Lincoln’s widow, who bequeathed it to her daughter, with the understanding that it would be eventually given to the White House.

It entered the White House collection in 1938. Reproductions of the portrait hang in the Illinois Governor’s Mansion in Springfield, Illinois, and the Minnesota House of Representatives chamber behind the speaker’s chair.

“Abraham Lincoln” by George Healy

  • Title:                 Abraham Lincoln
  • Artist:               George Peter Alexander Healy
  • Year:                 1869
  • Medium:          Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:     187.3 cm × 141.3 cm (73.7 in × 55.6 in)
  • Location:          White House

Abraham Lincoln by William F. Cogswell

Abraham Lincoln Portraits at the White House

“Abraham Lincoln” by William F. Cogswell

Abraham Lincoln, by William F. Cogswell, depicts Lincoln on the White House porch with the Capitol dome in the background.  Lincoln is wearing his black coat, his tall hat is on the chair, and he holds a scroll of one of his speeches.

After the U.S. Congress announced a portrait contest to paint Lincoln’s portrait to commemorate Lincoln’s legacy, President Ulysses S. Grant chose Cogswell’s portrait.

Cogswell completed three replicas of this life-sized portrait that hang in various State Chambers. 

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 to 1865. Lincoln led the nation through the American Civil War, the country’s greatest crisis.

Lincoln was born into poverty in a log cabin and was raised on the frontier in Indiana. He was self-educated and became a lawyer, Whig Party leader, Illinois state legislator, and U.S. Congressman from Illinois.

Lincoln ran for President in 1860, sweeping the North in victory. The southern states soon began seceding from the union, and the new Confederate States fired on Fort Sumter, a U.S. fort in the South.

Lincoln called up forces to suppress the rebellion and restore the Union. His Gettysburg Address became a historic clarion call for nationalism and democracy.

He succeeded in preserving the Union, abolishing slavery, and bolstering the federal government. He also sought to heal the war-torn nation through reconciliation.

In 1865, just days after the war’s end, Lincoln was attending a play at Ford’s Theatre with his wife when a Confederate sympathizer assassinated him.

Lincoln is remembered as the United States hero, and he is consistently ranked as one of the greatest presidents in American history.

“Abraham Lincoln” by William F. Cogswell

  • Title:                 Presidential Portrait of Abraham Lincoln
  • Artist:               William F. Cogswell
  • Year:                 1869
  • Medium:          Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:     Height: 259.7 cm (102.2 in); Width: 167 cm (65.7 in)
  • Location:          White House

Portraits of Presidents of the United States

Beginning with President George Washington, it has been traditional for the United States president to have an official portrait taken during their time in office, most commonly an oil painting.

This tradition has continued to modern times. Presidents will often display the official portraits of former presidents whom they admire in the Oval Office.

The National Portrait Gallery has been collecting and preserving presidential portraits since its creation in 1962.

Portraits of Presidents of the United States

Lincoln’s Beard

George Peter Alexander Healy

George Peter Alexander Healy (1813 – 1894) was an American portrait painter. He was one of the most popular painters of his day, and his sitters included many of the prominent people of his time.

Healy’s 1877 portrait of a young Lincoln was the model used for a Lincoln postage stamp, issued in 1959, the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.

Abraham Lincoln Portraits at the White House

Commemorative Stamp of Abraham Lincoln, 1959 issue, 1c.
– modeled on Healy’s 1877 portrait of a young Lincoln

George Peter Alexander Healy

  • Artist:              George Peter Alexander Healy
  • Born:              1813, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
  • Died:              1894 (aged 80), Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
  • Nationality:    American
  • Notable works:

Painting the American President

William F. Cogswell

William F. Cogswell (1819 – 1903) was a portrait painter who was born in New York.

Cogswell is most noted for his portraits of Ulysses S. Grant, currently hanging in the United States Senate, and Abraham Lincoln, which hangs in the White House.

He also painted Hawaiian royalty, and many public collections hold his paintings.

William F. Cogswell

  • Artist:             William F. Cogswell
  • Born:              1819, Fabius, New York, U.S.
  • Died:              1903 (aged 84), Pasadena, California, U.S.
  • Nationality:    American
  • Notable works:
    • Abraham Lincoln
    • Ulysses S. Grant


Presidential Portraits

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln


“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
– Abraham Lincoln


Photo Credit: White House / Public domain; Bureau of Engraving and Printing / Public domain; William F. Cogswell / Public domain

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