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

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Lyndon B. Johnson

LBJ as Lear

This 1967 ink and graphite caricature of Lyndon Baynes Johnson by David Levine appeared on the cover of Time magazine on January 5, 1968. It was on display in an exhibit on the year 1968 at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
Named Time's 1964 “Man of the Year” because of his remarkable presidential successes, Lyndon Johnson (1908-1973) received that distinction again in 1967 for his perceived failures. Violently scorned for escalating the Vietnam War, chastised by African Americans for moving too slowly on civil rights, and hounded in Congress for the costliness of his ambitious domestic programs, Johnson had even been deserted by much of his own Democratic Party. By the first week of 1968, when this caricature appeared on Time's cover, his approval rating had plummeted from a peak of 80 percent to 38 percent.

Artist David Levine (1926-2009) took his inspiration from Shakespeare's play King Lear (c. 1606), which centers on a man who runs afoul of his children and his own good intentions. Fellow Democrats Senator Robert Kennedy (1925-1968) and Representative Wilbur Mills (1909-1992) beleaguered the president; only one member of Johnson's political “family” remained loyal: Vice President Hubert Humphrey (1911-1978).  -- National Portrait Gallery

This c. 1966-68 poster by Nancy Coner hangs in the same exhibit, illustrating how unpopular the Vietnam War had become, and how closely Johnson was identified with the war.

 Bring the Troops Home Now
By 1968, the anti-Vietnam War movement had become a defining marker of youth culture, and increasing numbers of students realized the strength of their collective voice. Posters were a frequently used tool of protest, displayed on college campuses and held aloft in marches and demonstrations. The Student Mobilization Committee, a national organization that encouraged the formation of campus committees to end the war, issued the poster Bring the Troops Home Now. The phrase was also a slogan for anti-war organizations and rallies, as wel1 as the title of a newsletter that sought to direct the movement toward troop reduction.

The poster's designer, Nancy Coner, summoned many potent signals of the era, including rock-poster lettering, a pinwheel, helmeted and slain troops, riot police, a pontificating President Johnson, and placards with more anti-war slogans. -- National Portrait Gallery

Johnson Go Home

For a Shakespearean take on the other President Johnson click here.

For another look at Lyndon Johnson See Here.

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