This circa 1884 self-portrait of Thomas Nast hangs in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
Born in Germany, Thomas Nast (1840-1902) immigrated to New York in 1846. Nast’s gifts for illustration and social observation found ready use in national mass-circulation news magazines that did not yet have means to publish photographs. He published more than three thousand drawings, primarily in Harper’s Weekly between 1862 and 1885.
Nast favored Union-affirming policies and enjoyed the relative autonomy to express his political views. His early cartoons skewered the corrupt regime of New York City’s William Marcy ‘Boss’ Tweed. Nast went on to popularize the elephant and donkey as symbols of the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively.
Nast may have painted this self-portrait around 1884, when he lost his fortune in a Wall Street Ponzi scheme. It is perhaps a self-caricature. He renders himself with a furrowed brow, collapsed into a chair. An open drape reveals New York’s Trinity Church, and the foot of Wall Street.
Out of favor with his editor, Nast left Harper’s Weekly in 1887. He later joined the Democratic National Committee as a contract cartoonist but never recovered a national audience or financial position.” – Smithsonian Institution.
“Thomas Nast (September 27, 1840 – December 7, 1902) was a German-born American caricaturist and editorial cartoonist considered to be the ‘Father of the American Cartoon’. He was the scourge of Democratic Representative ‘Boss’ Tweed and the Tammany Hall Democratic party political machine. Among his notable works were the creation of the modern version of Santa Claus (based on the traditional German figures of Sankt Nikolaus and Weihnachtsmann) and the political symbol of the elephant for the Republican Party (GOP). Contrary to popular belief, Nast did not create Uncle Sam (the male personification of the American people), Columbia (the female personification of American values), or the Democratic donkey, though he did popularize these symbols through his artwork. Nast was associated with the magazine Harper's Weekly from 1859 to 1860 and from 1862 until 1886.” -- Wikipedia