Memory is a Fickle Fashionista: A Lost Lincoln Portrait and A Forgotten Artist – Part 2

Why was artist H. Stanley Todd forgotten?

The artist was forgotten because Memory is a fickle fashionista. When Henry Stanley Todd (1871-1941) sought artistic training, he chose the best school in the world, the Académie Julian in Paris. Leading the school was the man who dominated the Parisian art world, William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905). Bouguereau demanded photo-realistic idealized representations according to the “academic principle of enhancement,” that is, “smoothing out any defects in the model, endowing the human figure with classical authority.” His style sometimes led to cloying sentimentality. The Impressionists detested his work.  [1]

Memory is a Fickle Fashionista

Adolphe William Bouguereau, Charity, 1865, Birmingham Museum

Todd studied, not with Bouguereau, but with Jean-Paul Laurens (1838-1901) and Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (1845-1902).  From them, he learned impeccable draftsmanship and anatomical accuracy. Laurens was a history painter known for dramatic use of architectural space. When Benjamin-Constant painted portraits, his subjects gazed unflinchingly at the viewer.  In Todd’s portrait of Abraham Lincoln, he demonstrated the best of his training, but also displayed his American penchant for truth. His Lincoln is not an idealized representation, but a realistic portrait based probably on an 1863 photograph by Alexander Gardner and one from 1864 by Anthony Berger.

Jean-Paul Laurens, L'excommunication de Robert le Pieux, 1875, Musee d'Orsay

Jean-Paul Laurens, L’excommunication de Robert le Pieux, 1875, Musee d’Orsay


Memory is a Fickle Fashionista

Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant, Judith, N. D., Metropolitan Museum of Art


Lincoln Portrait

H Stanley Todd, Abraham Lincoln, early 20th century

Throughout his life, H. Stanley Todd painted portraits of business leaders, politicians, and religious leaders.  His subjects included William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and Mary Baker Eddy.  Todd’s work hangs at the National Academy of Design, Columbia University, and Williams College.  He died April 21, 1941, and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Todd studied and worked during Impressionism’s quiet swell. After his death, an avalanche of modernity plunged even the finest of traditional representational art into oblivion. Add Todd’s antiquated religious affiliations and Memory refused to mention his name. To add injury to insult, not long ago an auction house put Todd’s portrait of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, up for auction as Portrait of a Woman with White Hair and then let it go for $59. They gave the banished artist the kiss of death.

Poor Todd.  Does he deserve this fate?


 [1] Hilary Spurling The Unknown Matisse: A Life of Henri Matisse, Vol. 1, The Early Years, 1869-1908 (University of California Press, 2001) 66

(c) Fine Art Investigations, 2014
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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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