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Friday, July 28, 2017

The White House Art Collection

Presidents past, present, and future come together in the
same office for a photo-op.
England has their crown jewels, worn only rarely, if at all, and given the number of Royal Palaces, the little kingdom boasts, probably the largest collection of painted wall coverings in the world. Although President Donald Trump has yet to start wearing a crown, he does have a very respectable art collection at his disposal in case he chooses to redecorate the Executive Mansion (as it was originally know). And if that proves to be inadequate, few American art museums would dare turn down a request to loan the White House any item to which the President takes a liking. The Obamas, in fact, took advantage of this fact in requesting numerous items of Modern Art the likes of which one might never imagined as gracing such hallowed walls.
President Trump and his idol, President Andrew Jackson
by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl.
One of the first items of business, even before inauguration, is, as one might stay, "measuring for new drapes in the Oval Office." President Trump resurrect on an old gold set from the Clinton days while the "new" sunburst carpet he chose was from the Reagan Administration. New presidents may also choose from the White House collection their favorite works of art. President Trump adopted a portrait of Andrew Jackson by Ralph Whiteside Earl as his thematic idol (above). It replaced two landscapes Obama had relished.
The Churchill bust was a gift of great symbolism from England after the World Trade Center tragedy on September 11, 2001.
The Oval Office also boasts several bronze busts of great world leaders. President trump chose to keep the heads of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., while adding that of Winston Churchill (moved from just across the hall in the Roosevelt Room). Also gracing the Oval Office is the wise old visage of President Abraham Lincoln painted in 1916 by George Henry Story (below). These were all holdovers from the Obama décor. Also, for several years now, Frederic Remington's bronze Bronco Rider (bottom) has come to evoke the rough and tumble nerve center of political intrigue for which the President's office is known.
Abraham Lincoln, 1916, George Story

Another Trump favorite, the portrait
of Theodore Roosevelt, has I believe,
found a new place of prominence
in the State Dining Room.
There are limits to how far any president (or his wife) may go in redecorating the White House. The family living quarters are there's to make their own so long as any changes are reversible. On the other hand, the "state" rooms on the main floor are all but sacrosanct. Any changes there must be approved by the White House Historical Society. There have been rumors that President Trump has added a big-screen TV to the family dining room and purchased, on his own, a new chandelier for the blue room, neither of which I have been able to confirm. Very often changes on the main floor involve little more than minor refurbishing due to age or moving from one room to another the paintings on the walls. President Trump has given the impression in interviews that he plans to make few changes. However, he may have made this declaration without consulting his wife.

The White House has been compared to living in a fishbowl and by Barack Obama, "very plush prison." One might also compare it to living in an art museum.
Leaving aside the ever-growing col-lection of official presidential portraits, and those of First Ladies, the main focus of the White House permanent art collection is on American painters. A perennial favorite is Mary Cassatt's Young Mother and Two Children (above)which hangs in a second floor sitting room. Childe Hassam's The Avenue in the Rain (not shown) is another long-time favorite. Also included are works by Georgia O'Keeffe (not shown), George P.A. Healy, William Harnett, David Martin and Francis Bicknell Carpenter (seen above). However, undoubtedly one of the most valuable paintings in the White House collection is not by an American painter, but the Frenchman Claude Monet and his Morning on the Seine, Good Weather (below), dating from 1897.

Morning on the Seine, Good Weather, 1897, Claude Monet.
Bronco Rider, Frederic Remington


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