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Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant Portraits by William E. Marshall
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Considered the “finest line-engraving” of Lincoln, Marshall created this in 1866 from his painting of the martyred President. In November 1866, Ticknor and Fields of Boston announced that they would publish Marshall’s engraving on a subscription basis.

[ABRAHAM LINCOLN; ULYSSES S. GRANT]. William E. Marshall, Engraved Prints: “Abraham Lincoln,” New York, 1866, 20 x 25⅝ in. framed to 28½ x 35 in. And “Gen. U. S. Grant,” New York, 1868, 17⅛ x 22½ in., framed to 26 x 31¼ in. Ex Louise Taper Collection.

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Many Lincoln associates wrote to Marshall with praise. Robert Lincoln said, “I take pleasure in testifying to its excellence as a likeness. I cannot suggest any improvement.” Senator Charles Sumner wrote, “it will always be valued as presenting the original in his most interesting expression, where gentleness and sympathy unite with strength.” Secretary of War Edwin Stanton found it to be “a beautiful likeness of that great and good man.... As one who knew and loved him, I rejoice that you have so well succeeded in your effort … in preserving the memory of his countenance, and enabling the world to know what manner of man he was.”[1]

A critic in the Atlantic Monthly observed, “Were all the biographies and estimates of the President’s character to be lost, it would seem as if, from this picture alone, the distinguishing qualities of his head and heart might be saved to the knowledge of the future; for a rarer exhibition seems impossible of the power of imparting inner spiritual states to outward physical expression. As a work of art, we repeat, this is beyond question the finest instance of line-engraving yet executed on this continent.... As a likeness, it is complete and final. Coming generations will know Abraham Lincoln by this picture, and will tenderly and lovingly regard it; for all that art could do to save and perpetuate this lamented man has here been done.”[2]

Marshall produced the Grant portrait in 1868, the year he was elected President of the United States. The head and shoulders portrait depicts Grant in his uniform with the four stars of the General of the Army rank that Congress created for him on July 25, 1866.

Harper’s Weekly included a notice of the new print in April 1868: “Mr. William E. Marshall, whose portrait of Lincoln was so faithful and remarkable, and whose engraving of [Gilbert] Stuart’s Washington is so masterly, has just finished a portrait of General Grant… The fine character of the head, and the expression of the face, in which a predominant truthfulness is so marked and winning, are reproduced with a force and fidelity that will necessarily make it the standard portrait of the General. It is a very satisfactory head, and will take its place in the gallery of portraits of eminent Americans as among the most characteristic for that sagacity, intelligence, tenacity, modesty, and moderation which are the best qualities of our best men.”[3]

William Edgar Marshall (1837-1906) was born in New York City to Scottish parents. Aftter moving to Washington, D.C., he worked as a watchmaker, and then for the U.S. Treasury Department, where he learned to engrave portraits. In 1858, he was employed by the American Bank Note Company, becoming one of the company’s best engravers. He established a portrait studio in Boston, then traveled to Paris in 1864 and turned his attention to painting again. He returned in 1866 and immediately began to prepare a portrait of martyred President Abraham Lincoln, when he then engraved. He established a studio in NY on Broadway, where artists and writers often gathered.

[1]“Marshall’s Engraving of Lincoln,” Lincoln Lore (Fort Wayne, IN), No. 591, August 5, 1940, 1.

[2]Atlantic Monthly 22(November 1866): 643-644.

[3]“Marshall’s Grant,” Harper’s Weekly: A Journal of Civilization (New York, NY), April 18, 1868, 3:4.