Exhibition Review – ‘One Life – The Mask of Lincoln’ – The Faces of Lincoln, as Revealed in Books and a New Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery – NYTimes.com

It’s been a while since I shamelessly plugged anything but I couldn’t resist today. This is a wonderfully positive review that mentions the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition called ONE LIFE: The Mask of Lincoln. It’s a small show but packed with great images of the man. 2009 is the year of Lincoln celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth so there is Lincoln stuff all over the country. Here is a quote from the article:

Two white plaster masks appear next to each other in a display case at the National Portrait Gallery here. One shows a middle-aged face with a firm, grim look — perhaps because the subject had to control his breathing as the sculptor waited for the substance to harden. The plaster eyes are scooped out, but you can glimpse the interior man in the subtle musculature of the jaw, the high cheekbones, the expansive, smooth brow. He is determined, vigorous and (we know) ambitious.

The other mask is of the same man’s face, about five years later. It seems more of a death mask than one taken from life. Those years — between 1860, when this man, Abraham Lincoln, was beginning his campaign for president of the United States, and February 1865, when he was just two months away from being murdered — seem to have carved the flesh from his cheeks, hollowed out the eye sockets more decisively than any sculptor’s thumb, and dug lines and pockets in aging, sallow flesh.

This modest exhibition of 30 images of Lincoln at the Portrait Gallery — “One Life: The Mask of Lincoln” — may turn out to be an understated highlight of Lincoln’s coming bicentennial year, which promises a full harvest of academic conferences, exhibitions, the reopening of Ford’s Theater and scores of new books, many offering revelations from freshly plumbed archives and analyses of figures major and minor. But the juxtaposition of these masks may remain one of the most potent, graphic images of the effects of the crucial years they frame.

If you are in DC (possibly to see the newly re-opened National Museum of American History), please visit the National Portrait Gallery and take in this lovely exhibition.

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