"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Carl Sandburg

This 1961 portrait of Carl Sandburg by William A. Smith hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
"Perhaps no figure in American letters has ever identified himself more readily and affectionately with grassroots America than Carl Sandburg. From his poem 'Chicago'; hailing that city as 'Hog Butcher to the World,' to his efforts to preserve American folk music and his six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln, Sandburg seemed forever dedicated to enriching popular appreciation for his country's democratic experience. In the 1930s, as the Depression steadily eroded the optimism that had always been an underpinning of that experience, he concluded that what the public most needed from him now was a reminder of the country's resilient virtues. By 1936, he had completed The People, Yes, a long discourse in free verse admitting to America's failings but, more important, celebrating its over­riding strengths. 'A foreigner will find more of America' in it, one critic wrote, 'than in any other book.'" -- National Portrait Galley

In 1960, an article in This Week Magazine entitled Pushups and Poetry told how the then 82-year-old poet, historian and folklorist did push-ups in William A. Smith's studio while sitting for this painting.

The poet, in artist Smith's studio in Bucks County, Pa.
Sandburg learned his “Bill Miller” exercises in the Spanish American War
... and has done them every morning since. (Photos by William A. Smith)

And here's a 1956 photo also by William A. Smith that accompanied some poetic advice from Sandburg. (See  Don't Get Too Comfortable, This Week Magazine, October 14, 1956, Page 2.)

Pulitzer-Prize Winner: Now 78, Carl Sandburg has been a newspaperman, distinguished poet, Lincoln biographer, folklore collector. (Photo by William A. Smith)

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