Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser
Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser
Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser

  • This remarkably rare period oil painting of Abraham Lincoln boasts both historic and artistic import
  • The portrait was created by one of the very few black artists of the period, David Bustill Bowser
  • The work is based upon the famous photograph of Lincoln that is now on the five dollar bill
  • Other portraits of Lincoln by Bowser hang in the Lincoln Museum and the Sanofka Collection
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Item No. 30-8301
Price: Available upon request
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description
David Bustill Bowser
1820-1900 | American

Abraham Lincoln – A Portrait

Oil on photo paper mounted on canvas
Signed and dated “Bowser 1865” (lower right)

Boasting both historic and artistic import, this remarkably rare period oil painting depicts one of the most recognized and admired figures in American history, created by one of the very few black artists of the period, David Bustill Bowser. Based upon the famous photograph of Abraham Lincoln by Mathew B. Brady that is now featured on the American five dollar bill, this important work is both infinitely familiar and a remarkable rarity. While many well-respected artists have painted Lincoln, few works were created during his lifetime, and even fewer by the hand of a black artist.

While this portrait by Bowser is an extraordinary rarity, it is not entirely unique. Bowser created a handful of portraits of the famous Lincoln, revealing the respect the artist held for his subject. Today, one of these paintings hangs in the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana, while another is in the Sanofka Collection in Washington D.C. Only one other of these important works has ever been publicly traded, having been sold at auction in 1990 for $20,900. To find another on the market over twenty years later, in its original frame, is an exceptional opportunity.

Born in 1820 in Philadelphia, David Bustill Bowser was one of the first successful African-American artists in the United States. He showed a remarkable artistic talent at an early age, and was apprenticed to his cousin, commercial artist Robert Douglas Jr., in 1833 at the age of thirteen. By the mid-nineteenth century Bowser’s commercial art, with its strong lines and bright colors, could be found on advertising signs and banners throughout Philadelphia. While commercial art, particularly sign painting, afforded Bowser financial success, he was also an accomplished portrait and landscape painter, winning the first prize medal of the Colored American Institute’s exhibition in 1851 and 1852. Among his numerous political and social subjects, however, one stood above the rest and came to define his career: President Abraham Lincoln.

Aside from his artistic talents, Bowser was also a key figure in the early civil rights movement. His grandfather, Cyrus Bustill, is remembered as one of Philadelphia’s earliest free black leaders and abolitionists. Bowser followed his grandfather’s example, beginning his lifelong work in civil rights in 1838. He was a leading member of the African American Anti-Slavery Society, and also provided his home as a stop for the Underground Railroad. It was during this time that radical abolitionist John Brown was a guest in his home and sat for a portrait, executed by Bowser in 1858.

Canvas: 26 1/2" high x 22" wide
Frame: 33 3/4" high x 27 1/4" wide

Provenance:
Jay Cooke
H.E. Babcock Private Collection, Boston Massachusetts, 1963
Thence by descent, Edwina Coleman
specifications
Framed:27 1/4"W x 33 3/4"H
Unframed:22"W x 26 1/2"H
Period: 1816-1918
Origin:America
Subject:Portrait
Width:27 1/4 Inches
Height:33 3/4 Inches
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