About this artwork
Alexander Hesler, a noted commercial photographer based in Chicago, arranged two portrait sessions with Lincoln, in 1858 and 1860. The images from their first session displayed the presidential candidate with disordered and messy hair. During the subsequent election campaign, the Republican National Committee grew concerned that Lincoln might appear unkempt compared to his opponent, Stephen A. Douglas. Hesler therefore produced this more dapper and well-groomed representation of the candidate at the second sitting, and these and similar portraits by Mathew Brady were widely distributed as badges. In this first presidential campaign to employ photographs, the decision to make Lincoln a familiar face may well have swayed voters. The artist George B. Ayers purchased Hesler’s studio in 1867, a move that saved its contents from being destroyed when the gallery burned down in the Chicago Fire of 1871. Ayers later reprinted Hesler’s glass plate negatives, claiming this image in particular as the "Original and Best Picture of Abraham Lincoln," essential for any collector of portraits or Lincoln memorabilia.
Currently Off View
- Alexander Hesler
- Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois
- United States
- Platinum print
- Unmarked recto; inscribed verso, upper left, in graphite: "764"; verso, center, diagonally, in graphite: "235 / 7x9 / Hessl [?]"; verso, right center, in graphite: "L-16325 2 86 [underlined] / El P. Bug [?] 1/2 [encircled] 5 92 [underlined]"; verso, lower center, in graphite: "Wal [?]"
- 22.7 × 17.7 cm (image/paper)
- The Mary and Leigh Block Endowment Fund