Material: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 49 x 78 inches
In the library of Congress in Washington DC, directly above a case that displays the contents of Abraham Lincolnís pockets the night of his assassination, hangs an etching by John Sartain. Titled "Abraham Lincoln the Martyr/Victorious" (1865), it depicts Lincoln, surrounded by harp playing angels, ascending to a mythological heaven into the waiting arms of George Washington.
When I first saw this print, I was struck by the total confusion inherent in this image. George Washington is interchangeable with God and Lincoln has replaced Christ in a pseudo-classical rendition of an ascension scene; the Father of our nation and the Savior of the Union. What intrigued me most is that the blending of politics and religion in this etching presents a valid commentary on our current government. Is the framework of our nation really based on the laws of God or is religion often the shroud that disguises political motivation and convinces us that we are acting on the right side of God? I wanted to take this notion of A. Lincoln and push it until he became an American icon seen simultaneously as Christ and martyred president, eliminating as much of the actual man as possible.
Already working in a style that shares the concerns of early Italian painting structures and color, I borrowed the green skin tones and gold background from a Sienese crucifixion scene for a simple portrait of Lincoln. Another painting inspired by an 1865 print by J.L. McGee, an etching of Satan tempting Booth to assassinate Lincoln, along with my own version of Lincoln ascending to heaven make up what could be two missing scenes from the life of Christ.