LeRoy Neiman is known for his vibrant art, primarily his ability to capture movement in his depictions of sports heroes and sporting events. However, Neiman’s print of Abraham Lincoln from 1976 is doing something different. The artist’s portrait of the president is sedentary and quiet, yet at the same time the vibrant colors and the movement that those colors create, do to their angular application, provide an interpretation of Abraham Lincoln’s personality that is distinctly unique.
Most portraits of Lincoln that we, as viewers, are familiar with show him as contemplative and strong, if not somewhat anxious. Neiman’s portrait shows these aspects of Lincoln as well with the head tilted slightly upward and a stare that is strong, and eyebrows that are slightly furrowed. But, the bold colors and movement in Neiman’s print add a lightness and activity that seems to coexist with the other attributes depicted. In other words, the print hints at potential undertones to Lincoln’s personality that are rarely seen in other portraits of him.
Recently Neiman’s colorful portrait of Abraham Lincoln was used in the celebration of the president’s 200th birthday. It was most likely chosen as the main image of Lincoln to be used in the celebration because of its similarities to the now famous campaign image of Barack Obama. This is a connection that seems appropriate because both presidents were from Illinois, president Obama was returning to Illinois for the bicentennial celebration, both are symbols of racial equality, and Lincoln is a hero of president Obama’s (he used his bible to take the oath of office)
The campaign image of Obama puts him in the same position as Neiman’s print of Lincoln, with head tilted up staring into the distance with a slightly furrowed brow. Furthermore, the Obama image capitalizes on the use of atypical colors, like Neiman’s print; although in this instance the artist used red, white, and blue as symbols of the American flag and of Obama and America’s diverse background, which blends together in an effort to see past race line. Interestingly enough the bold colors used in Neiman’s portrait of Lincoln also evoke this symbolism due to his role as a president who battled for racial equality.
LeRoy Neiman’s portrait of Abraham Lincoln is a uniquely interesting portrayal of the president in its own right. However, the symbolism of the piece has grown even more because of how it has been linked to the current president, adding a new dimension to Neiman’s print.
For more information on MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. signed Abraham Lincoln serigraph by LeRoy Neiman please go to: http://www.chicagoartappraisers.com/invneiman3.html
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