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

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Walt Whitman

This 1889 portrait of Walt Whitman (1819-1892) by John White Alexander hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
 "As a poet, Whitman celebrated his youthful vigor. Ironically, many of the images we have of him were done in his old age as he became internationally famous. Even as he aged, Whitman insisted that life-facing 'the worst as well as the best' had to be accurately represented. John White Alexander painted this picture in 1889, and Whitman criticized it as too genteel too 'Bostonese' was the word he used. He much preferred his portrait by the noted American realist painter Thomas Eakins, who, Whitman felt, created a likeness that 'is not per­fect but it comes nearest being me.' The contrast between the two portraits illustrates the conflict between genteel culture and realism in American art during the Gilded Age." -- National Portrait Gallery
Perhaps Whitman would have found this portrait by Frank Harris, 1920 less "Bostonese".


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