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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Gerald R. Ford Portraits

Seen here with Everett Raymond Kinstler in 1977, President Ford
was once a male model, so posing came naturally to him.
President Gerald Ford official White House
portrait, 1977, Everett Raymond Kinstler.
In my continuing series dealing with portraits of presidents, today is the birthday of President Gerald R. Ford. He was born 102 years ago, July 14, 1913. Though most often associated with Michigan, Ford was actually born in Omaha, Nebraska, and his name wasn't Gerald Ford. It was Leslie Lynch King Jr. His parents separated just sixteen days after he was born. Three years later, his mother remarried, changing her son's name completely to that of her new husband, Gerald Rudolff Ford (later changed to Rudolph). Although Ford was not the only president to have his name changed, he does have the distinction of being the only president never elected president. As an appointed Vice President, Ford became president when Nixon resigned and but was defeated for reelection in 1976. And while many presidents have had their favorite artists, none were ever as devoted to a single artist--Everett Raymond Kinstler. At Ford's request, Kinstler is said to have painted the president ten times. One of them, the official White House portrait by Kinstler, is at left. Ford can be seen posing for it with Kinstler in the top photo.

Ford and Phillis Brown, Cosmopolitan Cover, Bradshaw Crandall, 1942
President Gerald R. Ford,
Everett Raymond Kinstler,
National Portrait Gallery.
The first painting of the future president was by an illustrator named Bradshaw Crandall. It was during the war, April, 1942; Ford was a newly commissioned ensign in the U.S. Navy; and was earning a few extra bucks working as a male model. Cosmopolitan Magazine posed him with cover girl, Phillis Brown, probably in the hope that their attractive faces might stir sufficient patriotic zeal as to persuade lonely ladies to lay out 25 cents for a copy. Perhaps this early stint as a model accounts for Ford's eagerness to pose again and again for Kinstler with the gentle urging, "try again." A second portrait of President Ford by Kinstler (right) hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. I could find only three Kinstler portraits of Ford, by the way, so the whole story may be apocryphal.

Betty Ford, Everett Raymond Kinstler
Ford Sketch, Everett Raymond Kinstler

Kinstler also painted the president's wife, Betty Ford (above, left), who had also been a model as well as a dancer in her younger days. It is a companion piece to one of the President (above, right), which makes the third portrait effort mentioned above. It would seem that Betty Ford was not as devoted a fan of Kinstler as her husband. She chose the little-known, Cuban artist, Felix de Cossio, to paint her official White House portrait (bottom).

President Gerald Ford, 2005,
Barton Gunderson
Gerald Ford postage stamp,
2007, Michael J. Deas
Little-known artists have also tried their hand at painting the former president as sell. The work of Barton Gunderson can be seen (above, left). Although somewhat more well known, the portrait of President Ford by Michael J. Deas (above, right) was chosen to grace the 2007 forty-one cent postage stamp issued a year after President Fords death in 2006.
First Lady Betty Ford, official White House
portrait, 1977, Felix de Cossio.


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