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

Friday, February 1, 2019

Andrew Johnson

“King Andy I”

This pastel on paper cartoon of “King Andy I.”, by Thomas Nast,  hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC.
Thomas Nast was undoubtedly the most effective partisan illustrator of the post-Civil War era. Nast, a northerner, heartily endorsed the Radical Republicans call for tight federal control of recon­struction in the South. When President Andrew Johnson, who supported states’ rights, opposed this policy, Nast launched a cartoon attack that easily ranked among his most merciless. He hounded his subject with vicious abandon, transforming him by turns into a conniving Iago, a blood spilling Roman emperor, and the scowling “King Andy I.”

Nast drew this cartoon in 1873 while allegedly on a lecture circuit. The donkey, with his ears wreathed in an emperor's garland, was probably meant to belittle the Democrat's charge of “Caesarism” inspired by current Republican talk of a third term for President Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885).  -- National Portrait Gallery

The NPG exhibit includes this c. 1870 carte-de-visit of the artist by Napoleon Sarony.

Thomas Nast
German-born Thomas Nast began his career as a graphic journalist during the Civil War. Over time, his objective artistic renderings became biting caricatures that made him one of the most influential editorialists of the Northern cause. Subsequently, and in addition to lampooning President Andrew Johnson, Nast aimed his satiric pen at the New-York Tribune editor Horace Greeley (1811—1872), the Ku Klux Klan, robber barons of the Gilded Age, and New York City's corrupt political machine, Tammany Hall, run by William "Boss Tweed (1823-1878). Nast is also remembered for the creation of the American political icons, the donkey and the elephant, for the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively. Moreover, his renderings of Santa Claus, especially his 1881 version, are still viable images today. -- NPG
Andrew Johnson is also portrayed as a king in Nast's depiction of the 1866 New Orleans Massacre:

The cartoon shows President Andrew Johnson  “as a king, crowned and in velvet and ermine. His alleged royalist ambition had been the theme of much Radical rhetoric.” Nast is attacking Johnson because he and others blamed Johnson for causing the July 1866 race riot that occurred in New Orleans when police shot and killed many African American delegates at a Radical Republicans convention. -- Library of Congress

He is portrayed as Iago in this Nast Cartoon from Harper's Weekly (1866):

Cartoon showing Andrew Johnson as the deceitful Iago who betrayed Othello, portrayed here as an African American Civil War veteran. -- Library of Congress
The North's popular cartoonist Thomas Nast satirizes Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) In this illustration for the September 1, 1866, issue of Harper’s Weekly by portraying him as the evil schemer Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello (1604) Johnson professed to be a “best friend” to African Americans in the South while vetoing such empowering legislation as the Freedman's Bureau Bill the Civil Rights Bill, and Military Reconstruction acts, all designed to protect and advance their rights.  -- National Portrait Gallery

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