Boston Art Commission

 Mayor Menino Announces Lincoln Sketch Hung in Historic Faneuil Hall

 For Immediate Release:

Contact: Karin Goodfellow- 617-635-2434                                                                                                                                   


Two restored sketches, attributed to William Morris Hunt, of President Abraham Lincoln—studies for a lost painting—uncovered behind a portrait of Governor John Albion Andrew during Faneuil Hall conservation effort. 


For years the sketches were hidden away behind the portrait of Governor Andrew at Faneuil Hall. Now Mayor Thomas Menino and the Boston Art Commission are pleased to unveil a high-resolution digital copy of the intact sketch to hang in Faneuil Hall. The original sketches, both of which require stable environmental conditions, have been taken on by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on long-term loan.  “This sketch of President Lincoln dating almost 150 years back is a unique historical treasure that Boston has the privilege of displaying in Faneuil Hall,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “As time goes on, it becomes increasingly vital to preserve and share historical masterpieces such as these so that future generations can continue to celebrate our nation’s colorful past.”

 

Shortly after President Lincoln’s assassination, an oil painting was commissioned by the Boston firm Doll and Richards. In May of 1865, Mary Todd Lincoln sent a Black White House doorkeeper named Pendell to Boston. Being of comparable height to Lincoln and with the deceased President's clothes in hand, Pendell posed for the portrait. For unknown reasons Doll and Richards withdrew their commission, but Hunt was so pleased with how the piece was shaping up that he finished the painting on his own. After hearing about the dropped commission, Governor Andrew (a friend of the artist) attempted to purchase the piece, with the intention of displaying it in the State House. However, he was unsuccessful due to opposition from other legislators, and the painting was never displayed publicly. In the Summer Street Fire of 1872, Hunt's Mercantile Building studio and its contents were destroyed—including the Lincoln painting. Until now, all that remained of the historic piece was a small study of one of Hunt’s initial sketches, owned by the MFA.

 

In 1996, Peter Williams, a conservator hired by the Boston Art Commission to treat William Morris Hunt's portrait of  Governor Andrew at Faneuil Hall, discovered an 86.25" H x 48.25" W charcoal sketch of Abraham Lincoln stretched behind the painting’s canvas. Attributed to William Morris Hunt, this sketch is believed to be a life-sized charcoal rendering for the Lincoln portrait lost to the fire. In 2011, the charcoal drawing was sent to the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in Andover, Massachusetts, for conservation treatment and digital imaging. The drawing had sustained considerable damage, including losses in several places and staining from the repair of the painting that covered it. There were tears throughout the drawing, including a large v-shaped break across the face. As conservators prepared the drawing for treatment by removing it from the stretcher, they discovered that the second sheet of brown paper underneath the first—originally thought to be a lining—was in fact a second sketch of Lincoln, this one in a different pose. There was extensive damage to the second sketch, with a loss that unfortunately included much of the face.

 

After conservation treatment, the first Lincoln portrait was digitized in NEDCC’s Imaging Studio, using a precision imaging table engineered to accommodate oversize materials. This technology allows true 1:1 object resolution and faithful color reproduction, as well as distortion-free imaging. After digitization, the life-size replica that now hangs in Faneuil Hall was printed by Jonathan Singer at Singer Editions; printed on fine-art paper, the look and feel of the replica is almost indistinguishable from the original charcoal sketch. 


Special thanks go out to Save America’s Treasures and American Express, whose generous grants helped to fund the on-going Faneuil Hall conservation project.  Visitors may view the newly installed artwork at Faneuil Hall Sunday – Saturday, 9am – 5pm, except during special events. For more information on the Faneuil Hall artwork conservation effort, please visit http://publicartboston.com/content/faneuil-hall-project

 

First Lincoln sketch before treatment by Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC)


Second Lincoln sketch before treatment by NEDCC

 

Treatment at NEDCC

First Lincoln sketch during treatment by NEDCC


Treatment at NEDCC2

First Lincoln sketch during treatment by NEDCC


Lincoln sketch on wall

High-resolution digital copy of first Lincoln sketch in Faneuil Hall


Boston Art Commission

The Boston Art Commission, established in 1890, exercises legal authority to approve and site new public art on property owned by the City of Boston. Woven through the urban landscape, site-specific artworks identify Boston as a place with long history and a great capacity for innovation. These artworks, both permanent and temporary, range from traditional and new media public art pieces to municipal design elements, such as wayfinding systems and artistic lighting. In addition, the Art Commission has care and custody of all paintings, murals, statues, bas-reliefs, sculptures, monuments, fountains, arches and other permanent structures intended for ornament or commemoration on City property. It is the conviction of the Boston Art Commission that, in order to engender and support a thriving artistic consciousness within the city, community involvement shall extend beyond everyday appreciation to meaningful engagement in the creation, evolving interpretation and ongoing care of artworks throughout Boston’s neighborhoods. For more information, visit the Boston Art Commission’s website at www.publicartboston.com

Date: 
Fri, 2012-06-22