The Lincoln Image: From Martyr to Contemporary Icon By Jenene Packard
Today, Lincoln’s image is known throughout the world. There are about one hundred and thirty known photographs that were taken of him in his lifetime. Several of these have been reproduced in some manner. The most famous images that were reproduced are found on the American penny and fivedollar bill. However, right before the Civil War began, the print industry was just starting to grow as these photographic images were becoming available to the massive public. These ranged from early carte-de-visites, to numerous lithographs and newspaper political cartoon images. And, as historical witness and poet Walt Whitman pointed out: “The reader has seen physiognomies (old sea captains) that, behind their homeliness, or even ugliness, held superior points so subtle, yet so palpable, making the real life of their faces almost as impossible to depict as a wild perfume or fruittaste, or a passionate tone of the living voice – and
Image from the public domain
Throughout the centuries, our society has celebrated the memory of its great leaders. Whenever the name Abraham Lincoln is mentioned, without a doubt, several things come to mind. There have been numerous biographies, performances by passionate Lincoln re-enactors and countless films created to celebrate his legacy and far beyond. And further, if you take a moment to think about the sheer amount of images that are massed produced showing the famous face of Lincoln, you may wonder: what relevance do these images really have? And how do they impact us as individuals?
such was Lincoln’s face: the peculiar color, the lines of it, the eyes, the mouth, expression. Of technical beauty it had nothing – but to the eye of a great artist it furnished a rare study, a feast and fascination.”
Throughout our modern history, individuals have become even more captivated by everything that pertains to Lincoln and the mannerisms of his distinctive face. One would be hard pressed against arguing that one of the most important things we know about him is the study of his image and unforgettable face. Former Lincoln artist and collector Lloyd Ostendorf made several valid points in regards to how valuable this historic image was, and no one else has yet to so perfectly describe his visage: “His is a fascinating face, one that attracts people, whether he appears homely or handsome. His fea-
Published on Oct 6, 2010