Click on photos to enlarge.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Renaissance Cities--Genoa

Palace of Saint George, Genoa,  built in 1260, one of the city's oldest architectural landmarks.
Some streets in Genoa haven't changed
much since the Renaissance.
I've seen wider hallways.
Genoa, Italy, has been nicknamed "The Proud One." Indeed, its landmarks, its architecture, its culture, its food, its art, and a couple rather famous people who were born there, give it a lot to be proud of. Except perhaps for Rome and Naples, Genoa has one of the longest histories of any city on the Italian peninsula. Archaeologists can confidently place the Greeks there as early as the sixth or fifth century, but also suggests the area may have been inhabited by the Etruscans well before that. When an area features a natural harbor like that of Genoa (below), down through the centuries, the real estate around it seldom sees much rest. Its harbor is not as big as the Bay of Naples but some would claim it surpasses that of Naples, which is so large as to provide less shelter from the Mediterranean's fierce, winter storms. In terms of shipping volume, however, Genoa is the largest port in Italy. Thus from its earliest times right up to the present, Genoa has been very much a maritime city, built around trade, commerce, and manufacturing. From its Greek and Roman beginnings, Genoa may not be the Mediterranean's most beautiful city, but it would be hard to overstate its importance during the Italian Renaissance and in the centuries since.

Genoa from the Renaissance to the 19th century.
Columbus by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, 1520
Like many people reading this, I first heard of Genoa in the third grade while studying world history. I had no idea where it was but that didn't matter much so long as Christopher Columbus knew where it was and how to get back there. Although Columbus didn't sail to the new world from there, he, along with the Italian violinist, and composer, Niccolò Paganini, was born there in 1451. (Paganini was born in 1782.) Unlike most of the other great figures from the Italian Renaissance, Columbus seems to have had more important things to do that sit around being painted. Only one portrait, a 1518 image by Sebastiano del Piombo, titled Portrait of a Man (below, left) is recognized as possibly being an accurate depiction of the Italian sea captain. The second figure (below, right) is far less certain even than that. The portrait purported to be of Columbus (right) by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio (son of Domenico Ghirlandaio) is even more questionable. This portrait was executed in the first half of the sixteenth century, after the death of Columbus in 1506. Ghirlandaio never lived in Spain (or Genoa) and it is highly unlikely he ever met the Admiral.

Maybe, and probably not. There's certainly no similarities between the two.
There's not much of Genoa remaining today that Christopher Columbus would recognize. He'd be familiar with the Palace of Saint George (top), which dates from 1260, also St. Lawrence Cathedral (below), completed in 1118, and the Medieval Gates to the city dating from long before that. Likewise, he might have kept his money in the Bank of Saint George, which dates from 1407 (one of the oldest banks in the world).

It's alright, I guess, if you like stripes.
Genoa's Lanterna lighthouse, 1543.
However most of the architectural landmarks we see today date from the 16th century after Columbus's death. Those would include the Royal Palace of Genoa (below) and the iconic Genoa Lanterna lighthouse (left) which dates from 1543, and the Doge's Palace, parts of which existed in Columbus' time, but which has been added to and remodeled to such as extent as to be largely unrecognizable to the 15th-century seaman. Genoa's other favorite son, Niccolò Paganini, on the other hand, would recognize all these landmarks as well as the 19th century center of the city, the famous Ferrari Plaza (bottom), though it has probably changed a little since his time. The Ferrari Plaza, by the way, is not, a Ferrari dealership, nor a giant parking lot in the center of town reserved exclusively for owners of the iconic Italian sports car. It was named for the Duke of Galliera, Raffaele De Ferrari. I should note, however, that there is only one Ferrari family tree growing in Italy.

Royal Palace, Genoa, mostly dates from the 16th-century Baroque era.
Another item Christopher Columbus would have been sure to recognize was this map of northern Italy (below) from the Renaissance era (in a slightly less modern form, of course). During Columbus' time, and even up until the middle of the 19th century, there was no country called "Italy." Italy was a boot-shaped peninsula jutting out into the Mediterranean. Most of the business end of the boot was controlled by the Kingdom of Naples, which was, at various, times controlled by France, Spain, and a few other European political entities. Then there were the Papal States, a sort of decorative belt running diagonally up across the middle of the boot. North of that were the various combative city states of Sienna, Florence, Venice, Milan, Savoy, Genoa, and a few other smaller ones not worth mentioning. (If their names you wish to know, check out the map below.)

Despite the presence of the various popes in Rome (and sometimes because of them) politically, Italy had been an unholy mess from the fall of the Roman Empire until Garibaldi, Camillo Cavour, Victor Emmanuel II and Giuseppe Mazzini brought them all together during the middle of the 19th century.
If the 16th century saw a period of robust growth for the city of Genoa, it was nothing compared to that which occurred during the 19th century, both before, during, and after Italian unification. Painters and others involved in he fine arts flocked to Genoa as the city blossomed into a haven for intellectuals and free-thinkers. The all-important harbor became a focal point for visiting artists anxious to cash in on the romantic aura of the Italian landscape fad sweeping the continent. No one has ever quite put their finger on the reason for this attraction, or what it was about Italian landscapes which made them any more attractive than those of any other nation. But that didn't stop English artists such as William Haseltine, William Parrot, and John MacWirther all of whom painted romantic vistas of Genoa (below) which Columbus might have recognized, but would probably have found amusing as compared to the down and dirty seaport in which he'd grown up. Perhaps another Englishman, Charles Dickens, who spent a year vacation in the city, said it best: "We could see Genoa before three; and watching it as it gradually developed; its splendid amphitheater, terrace rising above terrace, garden above garden, palace above palace, height upon height, was ample occupation for us, till we ran into the stately harbor." Arriving by ship, the veil of sea haze may have hidden the less attractive aspects of mid-19th century Italian life. Dickens' subsequent impressions are peppered with adjectives like "dirty," "squalid,", "disheartening," and "dismal."

The "romantic" Genoa as seen by British artists during the 1800s.
Genoa's Piazza di Ferrari today.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Gingerbread Architecture

A Tudor style example reminiscent of the art's northern European roots.
(Note: As with many other art forms, gingerbread houses are best photographed outdoors.)
Christmas in Russia.
Now that Thanksgiving is over (thank God); and the Christmas season, according to the experts at Walmart, is upon us, I considered it fair game to explore a type of architecture common to the kitchen--Gingerbread Architecture--what we might also reasonably call Christmas Architecture. For the most part such architecture has the following common attributes: rich in color, rich in calories, rich in tradition, rich in creative possibilities, rich in flavor, rich in fun, and nearly always limited to small, more or less, portable scale models. They can be simple enough that a child of six (with a fair amount of adult supervision) can build one, and complex enough to challenge the skills of a highly talented professional pastry chef. The best of the best are often found in restaurants, hotels, bake shops, and competition exhibitions around this time of the year.

A gingerbread shop in Strasbourg, Austria
The Medieval baking of gingerbread.
Before getting lost in the intricacies of this colorful, edible art medium, I think it best to mention the origin of the building material involved. Those who make a study of such things tell us that ginger has been seasoning foodstuffs and drinks since ancient times. It's believed gingerbread was first baked in Europe near the end of the 11th century, as returning crusaders brought back recipes for spicy bread from the Middle East. Ginger was not only tasty, it also helped preserve the bread. According to the French, gingerbread came to Europe in 992 by way of the Armenian monk, Saint, Gregory of Nicopolis. He lived in Bondaroy, France, near the town of Pithiviers, where he taught gingerbread baking to priests and other Christians. Gingerbread, as we know it today, descends from Medieval Europe. Using molds, gingerbread was often shaped into different forms by monks in Franconia, Germany in the 13th century. Nuremberg was recognized as the "Gingerbread Capital of the World" in the 1600s when the baker's guild first began urging master bakers to create complicated works of art from gingerbread.

A full-scale gingerbread house as a Christmas decoration in Stockholm, 2009.
Gingerbread template example.
Before you can begin building a gingerbread house you need two things, a recipe and a plan. The full scale gingerbread house displayed in Stockholm in 2009 (above) consists of 648.1 pounds (294 kg) flour, 202.8 pounds (92 kg) margarine, 221.3 pounds (100.4 kg) sugar, 14 gallons (66.3 liters) Golden syrup, 4.8 pounds (2.2 kg) cinnamon, 4.8 pounds (2.2 kg) cloves 4.8 pounds (2.2 kg) ginger and 8.1 pounds (3.7 kg) baking powder. If you're making a somewhat smaller house...well, you can do the math better than I in reducing the quantities. As for the plan, never, ever start to build a house without first drawing it out on paper. In the case of the gingerbread variety, drawing the plan to the actual size of your creation works best. That allows you to use it as a template in cutting the gin-gerbread into individual pieces. Inasmuch as the gingerbread is baked in a large, flat pan, check the size of your ovenware before deciding on the size of your house. The template (left) is not intended to be used as is, but only to serve as an example indicating what one should look like. The roof should be created as a separate gingerbread unit. As with all such undertakings, for the beginner the "KISS" principle applies (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

A thick, sticky, hard-drying icing is the all-important glue that holds it all together. Don't try to build the whole thing in one sitting. Give it time to dry and become structurally stable. Stained glass can be created by melting fruit-flavored Lifesavers.
Do try this at home, but first, before
trying to teach someone, do one yourself.
Building a gingerbread house along with the help of a young person is a good bonding exercise, but don't start by trying something like the ornate, Gothic house of worship (above). As with any teaching encounter, by all means have one or two successful edible edifices under your belt before attempting to teach anyone, regardless of age, the building skills so esoteric to such a often times contrary medium. There are kits available with detailed instructions which, to some degree, mitigate the otherwise fairly steep learning curve. However, once your skills have evolved, don't fear letting your imagination run away with them. I was especially impressed with the intricacies of the Smithsonian Institute's restaurant chef as demonstrated in his remarkably accurate scale model of the original early 19th-century Smithsonian "castle" (below).

The Smithsonian Institute rendered in gingerbread. Do people actually eat these things?
Not to be outdone by their friends across the National Mall, every Christmas the talented pastry chefs at the White House create a scale model of their workplace as well (below). However, for the life of me, I can't understand why they consistently get the classical proportions wrong. In variably, as detailed and technically skilled with gingerbread and white chocolate as they are, the makers always end up with a creation too tall for its width (as seen in the two images below). I do like the lighted interior though, showing off details of the various rooms.

White House made of gingerbread and white Chocolate, the 2013 version.
What it should look like can be seen in the horizontally distorted image below.
By distorting the width of the first image by 150%, the more accurate model can be seen.
Unfortunately doing so makes the columns appear too wide.
Once you have mastered the intricacies (and proportions) of modeling an actual structure, you're ready to move on to gingerbread fantasy architecture as seen in the gingerbread houses (below), demonstrating the highly guarded secret skills involving curved, and shaped gingerbread. I should also suggest the use of restraint in decorating your creations. Don't strive to hide the gingerbread beneath layer upon layer of icing and candy treats. It's the brownish gingerbread which, in large part, gives such works of art their inherent, old-world charm. I know it's Christmas, but don't over decorate. There's an old axiom artists have mostly stood by for centuries--more is not necessarily better.

"There was an old lady who lived in a shoe..." or was it a teapot?
Another old axiom in art--never be afraid to fail.
(You can always eat your mistakes.)


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Porcine Art

Pigcasso, 2009, Liza Phoenix--urban porcine art.
Many years ago, probably around 1972, I painted my first pig. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of it. The painting depicted a pristine, pinkish porker, primly posing upon a proper pedestal of purely Greek design. I called it Pig in the Parlor. If I recall, I may have been a senior in college at the time. In the ensuing years, I've rendered at least three additional paintings of pigs (below) though none now for more than twenty years. I used to think it was a means of thumbing my nose at the pandering pretentions of high art. Perhaps, but every single one of them sold. So much for that idea. In preparing to write about "pig painting" I discovered that a surprising number of artist now, and back then may have had similar thoughts. In fact, the city of Seattle even sponsors a charity competition among local artists who decorate fiberglass pigs to be anchored on downtown sidewalks for the amusement of passers by. Lisa Phoenix's 2009 entry, Pigcasso (above) is a colorful example.
Roughly twenty years of painted pigs.
Though I'd not realized it until lately, pigs have a long, colorful history in art. Scenes of wild boar hunting can be found on the walls of caves dating back tens of thousands of years. Paintings of animals, wild and domestic, have been a subject matter mainstay for centuries, though pigs have always been relegated to a spot near the bottom of the content hierarchy. As genre painting became popular in 17th-century European art, artists often left their studios, sketch pads in hand, and journeyed to outlying farms for their subject matter. Mostly they painted the human inhabitants, though we see them often interacting with the domesticated animals they raised for food, fun, and profit. George Morland's A Boy Looking into a Pig Sty (below), from 1794, is an early example from England.

A Boy Looking into a Pig Sty, 1794, George Morland
From this side of the Atlantic, we see an American genre painter whose work centered almost entirely around rural life and the workings of the early 19th-century farm. Below, William Sidney Mount's Ringing the Pig (Scene in a Long Island Farmyard), dates from 1842. It portrays very graphically the excitement and sheer physical finesse need to accomplish the task.

Ringing the Pig (Scene in a Long Island Farmyard), 1842, William Sidney Mount.
A generation or two later, another British artist, Joseph Crawhall III, painted Pigs at the Trough (below), which dates from 1884, in an Impressionist style. Most of his work was not very popular in that his chosen style, during the late 1800s had not yet "caught on." Most Impressionists, in their struggle for respectability in the art world at the time, would not likely have welcomed such lowly subject matter.

Pigs at the Trough, 1884, Joseph Crawhall III
Nearly a hundred yeas after Crawhall's attempt to popularize pigs, Impressionism had grown in popularity to the point of becoming passé. Pigs, too, had become more popular as we see in Jamie Wyeth's Portrait of a Pig (below) dating from 1970. Jamie Wyeth and I are about the same age. We both began painting pigs about the same time. When a member of the famed Wyeth clan begins painting pigs, you know they have "arrived."

Portrait of Pig, 1970, Jamie Wyeth
Let's face it, pigs are funny looking creatures. Daniel Eskridge plays upon this element of humor in his The Lost Pig (below). Seeking to evade rising flood waters, the unfortunate fellow finds himself perch precariously, stranded  upon a fallen tree. Though pigs can swim, this one seems not to realize that. From Brandywine to Folk Art, swine art may not always have been in good taste, but at least they taste good. I just had a bit for breakfast. Being such a mainstay of the rural diet here in America, now and in the past, it's little wonder pigs have found their way into our art. It's always been a sort of unwritten rule that artists paint what's important to them. Food is a basic necessity, thus it should come as no small surprise that the animals who provide it should be judged as important enough to be rendered in oils, fiberglass, and other art media. It's interesting to compare the similarities in the 19th-century Folk Art painting (bottom) to that of Wyeth's 20th-century image. One might go so far as to label the Folk Art version as being an abstract pig.

The Lost Pig, Daniel Eskridge

Antique American Folk Art "Baconator"

When Pigs Fly, Leah Saulnier.
I know I shouldn't stoop so low, but I couldn't resist.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Afewerk Tekle

The Total Liberation of Africa, Afewerk Tekle
Over the past five or six years I've been writing about the world of art, now and then. I've tried to cover as many different nationalities and geographic nooks and crannies as the world has to offer. The results have been uneven. My coverage of North American, and European art (that which I know best) has been, I think, reasonably thorough, if not always illuminating. To a lesser extent I've tried to cover South American and Australian art and artist. In both cases I've been less thorough and less illuminating. But where I've really failed is in dealing with Asian and especially oriental art. However, while I'm on this self-criticism kick, I should note that the global area of creative endeavor in which I've been most lacking is the entire continent of Africa--especially the subcontinent. I could make excuses, many of them quite valid, most having to do with extreme poverty, war, famine, pestilence--basically the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Such conditions do not lend themselves to the production of fine art or the establishment of a flourishing art market to support it. In essence, survival trumps creativity every time. Having said that, today I want to highlight a country in east-central Africa which not only has a long, historic, tradition of artistic excellence, but is, today attempting to recover the best of that past glory. Specifically I want to bring to light the man who is often thought of as that country's driving force in that effort, the Ethiopian painter, Afewerk Tekle.

The Ethiopian New Year, Afewerk Tekle
A youthful, grandiose self-portrait (left) and
years later, the mature artist at work in his studio.
Ethiopia is an arid, landlocked country just west of what's come to be called the "horn of Africa" where the Red Sea meets the Indian Ocean. Afewerk Tekle was born in what was once the capital city of that country, Ankober, located near its very center. The year was 1932. The country was under the heel and hell of the Italians. WW II was in the offing and the country was very much showing previews of coming distractions in that regard. After the war, while still in his teens, Afewerk's parents decided to send him off to London to study mining and engineering in the hope he might return to help rebuild his homeland after decades of fighting and destruction. Though Tekle went off to become an engineer, he came back four years later thor-oughly trained in the finest British traditions as an artist. There are some interesting twists and turns during that period, but that's his story in essence. Stylistically, his Ethiopian New Year (above), would appear to be one of his early works. However dates for Tekle's work are few and far between, and what few there are to be found seem not necessarily reliable.

Defender, Afewerk Tekle
The Maskal Flower, 1959, Afewerk Tekle
Tekle's Maskal Flower (left) dates from 1953, which does seem to be a reliable date. It's one of his first paintings Tekle did upon returning to Ethiopia after his schooling. In 1954 Tekle had his first one-man show in Addis Ababa. Its success gave him the funds to travel around Europe for two years where he mastered the design and construction of stained glass windows. His 1958 stained glass windows in the Africa Hall of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, is titled, The Total Liberation of Africa (top). It is starkly modern yet totally African in style and theme. Tekle's Defender (above), lays heavy emphasis on his Ethiopian style and African content. While in Europe, Tekle also made a special study on Ethiopian illustrated manuscripts in London, Paris, and Rome.

Final Judgment, Afewerk Tekle

Mother Ethiopia, 1963, Afewerk Tekle
To some degree, virtually all of Tekle's works have to do with Ethiopian nationalism, the country's colorful history, its people, its traditions, its ancient Judeo-Christian religion, and its art as related to all of the above. Ethiopia is prominently mentioned by name in the New Test-ament and referenced as the home of the Queen of Sheba in the old testament. Tekle's fidelity to his country's religious background can be seen in his Final Judgment (above) and, somewhat in-directly, in his Mother Ethiopia (right) from 1963. There is no mistaking Tekle's association of his homeland with the mother of Christ even to the point that her physical proportions seem reminiscent of Michelangelo's Vatican Pieta. From the old testament we find Tekle's massive mural titled The Queen of Sheba Meets Solomon, (below). The image is a detail from a high-parallax, upwardly viewed photo, but captures the essence of one of Tekle's most ambitious mural undertakings. Tekle died in 2012 from a severe stomach ulcer. He was eighty years old.

The Queen of Sheba Meets Solomon, Afewerk Tekle


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Zachary Taylor Portraits

Major General Zachary Taylor, ca. 1848, official White House portrait, Joseph Henry Bush

Zachary Taylor, 1848, James
Reid Lambdin, National Portrait gallery
It's probably safe to say that never in the history of the presidency of the United States was there ever a man and his wife more ill-suited for the office than General and Mrs. Zachary Taylor. Born in 1784, today, November 24th, would have been his 231st birthday. General Zach-ary Taylor was more or less drafted by the Whig Party, while his wife was vehemently opposed to her husband becoming Pres-ident. It's said that he was late receiving word from his party that he would be running for the office because he refused to accept mail marked "postage due." As a boy, growing up on the Kentucky frontier, Taylor had only a rudi-mentary education. His writing is said to have been "atrocious" and his spelling and grammar not much better. Starting in 1808, Taylor spent well over half his life as an army officer. He was one of the few Presidents never to attend college. He had few political views and in any case had very little interest in politics. Until elected president in 1848, he'd never even voted, much less held elective office. In those days, those qualities were seen as assets. He was against the spread of slavery to the western territories though he, in fact, had owned as many as 200 slaves himself at one time. Given the political realities of the period, those factors were also seen as assets. Only with great reluctance did Margaret (Peggy) Taylor follow her husband to Washington and, due to ill health, seldom took on the duties of First Lady, delegating them to her daughter, Betty Taylor Bliss (bottom). The official White House portrait of President Zachary Taylor by Joseph Henry Bush (above) from 1848, reflects this lifetime of military service, the only White House portrait to depict a president in military uniform,

Zachary Taylor (detail), 1863, G.P.A. Healy
President Zachary Taylor,
1850, John Vanderlyn
President Zachary Taylor was not what you'd call a portrait painter's dream subject. In fact, he had one of the homeliest (only a mother could love) faces to ever hold that office. Joseph Henry Bush made no attempt to mitigate Taylor's war-torn countenance. Thankfully, James Reid Lambdin did. His portrait of Taylor now in the National Portrait Gallery (above, right), was also painted in 1848, While not likely to win any beauty contests, he at least softens the man's well-lined face, erasing years from his image. The same could be said of John Vanderlyn's 1850 portrait of Taylor (right), although Vanderlyn pushes the flattery envelop to the point that his likeness of the President suffers. It's a tribute to the quintessential presidential portrait painter, George Peter Alexander Healy, that his portrait of Taylor (above), though making no obvious attempt to flatter the man, and painted some thirteen years after his death, is arguably the best of the four.

General Taylor's etched media images. His horse, Whitey, retired in old age to the White House lawn, where hair from his tail provided souvenirs for visiting tourists.
President Zachary Taylor had pretty much an average number of portraits painted and photographs taken to document his presence in the White House. His wife, on the other hand, had none. Even her "official" White House portrait can only be termed "dubious" at best. The officially White House posting is at lower right in the grouping below. The illustration of Margaret Taylor is from "Presiding Ladies of the White House," by Lila G. A. Woolfall, was published in 1903 by the Bureau of National Literature and Art, Washington, D. C. This is merely a suggested likeness, as no portrait or photograph of her is known to exist. There are a couple photos purporting to be of the First Lady, but they two are doubtful. As you can see below, none of the three bear much resemblance to one another. This lacking of a likeness is quite likely the result of Taylor's relatively brief span as President. Elected in 1848, sworn in on March 4, 1849, Taylor died in July, 1850, becoming the second President to die in office (William Henry Harrison was the first). The sixty-five-year-old president died unexpectedly of gastroenteritis (a stomach ailment) after having gorged himself on iced milk and cherries at an Independence Day celebration.

Margaret (Peggy) Taylor. The official White House image is at lower-right.

Betty Taylor Bliss, daughter of the general
and his wife, took on the duties as White House
hostess in place of her invalid mother.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Franklin Pierce Portraits

Franklin Pierce, official White House portrait, 1852, G.P.A. Healy
Franklin Pierce, G.P.A. Healy,
National Portrait Gallery
Today in the music business they call them "one-hit wonders." In the American political realm they're referred to as "one term Presidents," and there have been quite a number of them, especially during the 19th-century. There were a total of eleven with an additional five more in the 20th-century. Usually it has to do with a President not winning reelection or, in a few cases, not even being re-nominated by his party he was so unpopular. That was the case with the 14th President of the United States, Franklin Pierce. Born in 1804, today, November 23, would have been his 211th birthday. His official White House portrait was painted by the inveterate presidential portrait painter, George Peter Alexander Healy (above) in 1852. Pierce's single term as President from 1853 to 1857.
Father and son portraits of Franklin Pierce, the father, Adna Tenney painted the President in 1852.  His son, Ulysses D. Tenney's portrait imitates in many ways a long line of presidential paintings dating back to Gilbert Stuart's Lansdowne portrait of Washington.
If the name, Franklin Pierce, doesn't immediately bring to mind a face, it's not surprising. His portrait from the National Portrait Gallery collection (top, right) is also by Healy. Pierce was a relatively insignificant President, whose only major accomplishment in office was the successful postponement of the Civil War by signing the Kansas-Nebraska Act which was intended to placate the North and the South by allowing territories in the West to decide for themselves as to whether of not they would allow slavery. In fact, the law placated neither side, only serving to incite a bloodbath of frontier violence as the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions shot up one another in seeking to settle the matter. Incidentally, the leader of the Abolitionists was the Kansas Senator, Jim Lane (no relation), who later became a Union general. This period of turmoil has been called "Bleeding Kansas," and it made Pierce one of the most unpopular Presidents to ever serve. When his time came to seek reelection, his own party wanted nothing to do with him. Pierce's only consolation was that the man they eventually nominated, his Democratic successor, James Buchanan, is often cited as an even worse President. Having lost the nomination, President Pierce told reporters, "The only thing left to do now is get DRUNK."

The virtually unknown President by two unknown artists.
General Franklin Pierce, this 1847 etching
more political propaganda than art.
Pierce was born and raised in the state of New Hampshire, the only President to ever come from that state. He was the fifth of eight children. His father, a Revolutionary War veteran, was a state legislator, deeply involved in local politics. Pierce was a graduate of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and later studied law at Northampton Law School in Northampton, Mass-achusetts. He was admitted to the Bar in 1827 whereupon he returned to his hometown of Hillsborough to practice law. He lost his first case. Pierce eventually became a capable lawyer, but it was his deep, oratory voice and amazing ability to remember names and faces which served him well in following his father's footsteps into New Hampshire state politics. He won his first election as Hillsborough town moderator and was reelected six times. From there he went on to the state legislature, eventually to become Speaker of the House about the same time his father retired as governor of the state. Pierce eventually became on of five New Hampshire Congressmen while also serving as a member of the state militia, rising from the rank of Colonel to Brigadier General by the end of the Mexican War.

Franklin and Jane Pierce miniatures, attributed to Moses B. Russell, circa 1835
Jane Means-Appleton Pierce
Following a lackluster term in the U.S. Senate, and his service during the war, in which he was injured or ill during much of the fighting, Pierce resigned his commission and returned home to recuperate with his wife, Jane, and their three sons. Tragically, all three children died in childhood, the oldest, Benny, was killed just a few weeks after his father was elected President when the train carrying the family derailed. He was eleven years old, the only fatality in the accident. His mother never fully recovered from the loss. Chronically ill herself with tuberculosis, Jane Pierce (right) became reclusive, serving as White House hostess only on rare occasions, leaving most of the duties of First Lady to her husband's aunt. The White House staff came to refer to her as "the ghost." To this day, the White House has no official portrait of Jane Means-Appleton Pierce.

Franklin Pierce, by James Van Nuys,
Rapid City, South Dakota, one of 43 life-
size bronze Presidents lining the city streets.