Memory is a Fickle Fashionista: A Lost Lincoln Portrait and A Forgotten Artist – Part 1

Here is a detail of a recently re-discovered portrait of Abraham Lincoln:

H Stanley Todd, Abraham Lincoln, early 20th century (Detail)

H Stanley Todd, Abraham Lincoln, early 20th century (Detail)

and in full view:

H Stanley Todd, Abraham Lincoln, early 20th century

H Stanley Todd, Abraham Lincoln, early 20th century

Todd - Lincoln - Signature and Date Enhanced

Todd – Lincoln
Signature and Date EnhancedDespite dings and decades of surface dirt, the beauty of the portrait is evident.  The artist, “Todd”,  was obviously well-trained.  His signature was legible, but the date was not. Simple research revealed him to be Henry Stanley Todd, born June 17, 1871, in St. Louis, Missouri. His family was unrelated to Lincoln’s wife.  The name H. Stanley Todd meant nothing to me. The more I studied the artist, the more I learned that Memory is a fickle fashionista.

Eighty years ago, “H. Stanley Todd” was nearly a household word. His paintings drew thousands of people.  Parisian-trained, he was a member of New York’s prestigious Academy of Design.  He combined inventive and artistic skills as did earlier artists, such as Charles Willson Peale, Eli Whitney and Samuel F. B. Morse. He was also a steam engineer who rose to the presidency of Universal Turbine Company by the age of 44.  He and his wife Jean bought a 102-acre estate, The Priory, on Long Island, New York.  There, Todd returned to painting.

Though he was nearing 50 when the United States entered World War I, Todd enlisted. He served in Military Intelligence in Washington and Europe and earned a Silver Cross. At war’s end, he remained abroad as a staff member to the Commissioner of the American Red Cross.  He spent eight months working specifically on behalf of war orphans.  In 1924, the French government honored Todd as a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

Henry Stanley Todd, The Nazarene, New York Digital Library

Henry Stanley Todd, The Nazarene, New York Digital Library

In 1932, Todd returned to Long Island. The following year, he painted Christ, The Nazarene. According to the reviews of the day, previous contemporary paintings of Jesus depicted a dark-featured effete saint. Todd painted a blond-haired, blue-eyed masculine figure.  Almost with the force of a magnet, the representation attracted American Christians.

Prints of the portrait were so popular that religious leaders convinced the artist to hold a special sunrise service at estate on Easter Sunday 1933 to celebrate the 1900th resurrection. Church congregations arrived by bus. The Long Island railroad added a pre-dawn train. Four trumpeters heralded the rising sun. A 200-voice choir sang Handel’s Messiah.  Ministers from Long Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan delivered sermons.  At the end of the service, the audience lined up outside Todd’s studio to view The Nazarene. That summer, the painting hung in the Hall of Religion at the Chicago World’s Fair.  When the fair closed, The Nazarene traveled to 30 different churches across the nation.  Why was such a popular artist forgotten?

Continued here.

 

Sources

David Bernard Dearinger, Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design: 1826-1925 (Hudson Hills, 2004), 539

Claudia S. Fortunato, “Colonel Henry Stanley Todd, The Priory, and the Nazarene: A look at the life of famous portrait artist Colonel Henry Stanley Todd,  Half Hollow Hills Patch (Long Island, New York), March 14, 2011,  Part 1, accessed April, 2013

Claudia S. Fortunato,, “Colonel Henry Stanley Todd, The Priory, and the Nazarene: A look at the life of famous portrait artist Colonel Henry Stanley Todd,” Half Hollow Hills Patch (Long Island, New York), Part II, March 20, 2011,  accessed April 2013

“H. Stanley Todd, 69, Noted as Painter Artist,” New York Times, April 22, 1941, page 21

“Religion: Easter Dawn” , Time Magazine, April 17, 1933, accessed April 2013 

“Religion” Time Magazine, September 11, 1933, , accessed April 2013

(c) Fine Art Investigations, 2014
All Rights Reserved

About Patricia Moss

Patricia Moss is an art historian, or art detective if you will, who solves mysteries of 19th century American portraits. She located nearly 70 of Bingham’s lost portraits, a feat acknowledged by the Smithsonian’s Research and Scholar’s Center. From expertise with portraits of George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), she developed skills that evolved into a comprehensive system based on the scientific method that conforms to the legal and ethical standards of art authentication. Moss served as a guest curator for the Bingham Bicentennial Exhibit, “Steamboats to Steam Engines: George Caleb Bingham’s Missouri: 1819-1879,” (March 10-September 8, 2011) at the Truman Presidential Museum and curated the opening exhibition, “George Caleb Bingham: Witness to History,” (September 2013 –), Jackson County Art Museum, Independence, Missouri. She is also the principal researcher for Fine Art Investigations.
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