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27.11.12

Birthdays and Portraits

This past Friday was the 17th birthday of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. They grow so fast! As with everything, time has flown by. I remember delivering the building's architectural model to then-Governor Donald Schafer’s office in Annapolis, with museum founder/director Rebecca Hoffberger, to lobby his support.

AVAM has had its growing pains, and as anyone who has visited will know, it has been anything but a traditional museum. In addition to some amazing exhibits and performances, the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race and blowout crazy fun party/fund raisers, AVAM has become, in my opinion, the best exhibition space for outsider art and a fixture in the Baltimore cultural scene. Happy Birthday, AVAM!

I was reminded to see Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Lincoln, after seeing some Abraham Lincoln portraits at the National Portrait Gallery over the weekend. Mr. Lincoln did not have a house photographer documenting his every move, but we do have some striking portraits that give us a sense of the toll the office and war took on his facial features. One can trace the transition from a baby-faced Lincoln, in Leopold Grozelier’s 1860 lithograph, to Alexander Gardner’s photo portrait of 1867, where a craggy weariness takes over.



Perhaps more striking is the leap from sculptor Leonard Volk’s mask of 1860, before Lincoln’s election and the Clark Mills casting of 1865, shortly before the 16th president's death.

My favorite Lincoln portrait at NPG is that of George P. A. Healy (bottom right). It’s an image lifted from his large composition The Peacemakers. There are three versions of this portrait, one once in the possession of Robert Todd Lincoln, now in the White House collection. A more relaxed introspective Lincoln I can imagine, as well as the Lincoln also known for his wit and humor.


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