Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sexy Abraham Lincoln Statue?

In the last few years, I've had a lot of interest in the story of the Abraham Lincoln statue in Lyle Park, downtown .Cincinnati. What especially has intrigued me about it are the various controversies around it, starting from the commissioning of the project through the unveiling of the finished work and the idea of sending a copy to London. A lot of people, especially Robert Lincoln, thought this statue to be ugly, undignified, and even inappropriate as an image of the former President. Some people liked it, but many did not.

Author's picture, Lytle Park

In this link I have posted some other pictures I took of this monument as well as a link to my previous stories about it. I also gave a presentation to a local group about this issue, covering the same material.

Recently, and thanks to social media, I saw an article about a different Lincoln statue, a "sexy" or "hot" Lincoln. This is certainly different, especially the reactions mentioned in this story from near Chicago. The statue is over 70 years old, but apparently this view of the attractiveness of it is fairly new.

I have, of course, not seen the statue in person, but from what I've seen in the few pictures in the article, I'm not impressed. It does not look much like Lincoln to me at first glance, similar to some of the reactions in the story. It uses the young and beardless version of Lincoln as is seen in Cincinnati, but not the same pose or overall image.

The face looks too smooth, even for the younger man, and even too shiny, though that may be a photography issue. The hair somehow seems wrong as well. The shirt being open until the middle of his chest also looks inappropriate, though I admit I'm no expert on the fashion trends of the day, especially for someone doing farmwork. Maybe he wore clothes like that, including the rolled-up sleeves, to be cooler while he rested. The sleeves seem more reasonable to me than the open shirt.

He also appears to have a slight smile or smirk on his face, which photographs at the time did not use, but as the statue was designed to show him resting after doing work, who is to say that is not accurate? He probably was happy to sit down and pick up a book, though the look on his face is not familiar to us. The bare feet are a nice touch and seem realistic.

Ironically, the statue in Cincinnati became mockingly known as the "stomach ache statue" because the artist George Barnard Grey had placed Lincoln's hands over his abdomen, leading some viewers to believe Lincoln looked ill. On this statue, the hands at first appear to be in a similar position, but the seated pose and the book he is holding makes that less apparent.

His clothing is also much less wrinkled than in the Cincinnati statue and I do wonder if they would look so nice after a few hours of work outside.

I don't mean to criticize the statue too much, especially just judging by a few photographs. It is different than others and is not unrealistic, though I still find the face and head to be barely recognizable as Lincoln. I'm not sure I can explain it, but that part just seems to be wrong. The side angle picture in the article is especially noteworthy to me as it appears to be any man, not specifically Lincoln.

From the linked story at dnainfo.com

From eBay 

Perhaps the statue is fine and the issue is my own personal image of Lincoln. As asked in my previous stories, who owns his memory or determines his image - the artist, the audience, or someone else? Is it just "beauty/image is in the eye of the beholder?" This is just another example of how different people produce different images or have varying memories of a historical figure, even someone as famous and as photographed as Lincoln was. Maybe the lack of photographs from Lincoln's youth affects this, though there are images of the unbearded man that help us see his pre-presidential looks. With that said, I just do not see a good image of Lincoln in this statue, especially the facial features. For this beholder, the beauty is simply not there.

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