Sunday, November 9, 2008
My Obama picture from "Lincoln and his Boys"
In this historic week in US politics, I thought I'd share this picture from the forthcoming book, "Lincoln and his Boys" by Rosemary Wells.
I was working on it at about the time that Barack Obama declared in Springfield, Illinois, that he was running for President.
Shortly after the confederate stronghold of Richmond was taken by the Union forces, Lincoln was urged to parade with troops through the centre of the ruined city. Not wishing to glory in the defeat of the South, he chose instead to walk through Richmond with his son, Tad.
This was a very tricky picture for me, in that Rosemary's text accurately describes how the former slaves threw themselves at Lincoln's feet calling him Father Abraham.
But was important for me to present the scene in a dignified way. I wanted to show the joy of the crowd surrounding Lincoln and Tad, but I needed to hint at the mixed emotions and foreboding that some of the people would have had, and also to show a measure of defiant strength.
All of this is focussed in the thoughtful individual holding his hat at the lower left in what is compositionally, the counterpoint to Lincoln's position.
Obama is a stirring orator, but he'll have to go some to match Abraham Lincoln, whose speeches contain some of the most poetic and inspiring words ever spoken.
As President elect Obama prepares to take on his great challenges, to address the financial crisis and to try to redeem the position of the US in the world, I think of some lines that Lincoln spoke as he left Springfield for the last time, knowing that he was facing almost inevitably into Civil War.
"My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail...."