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Monday, March 30, 2009

Mary Todd Lincoln at The National Portrait Gallery

By The Queen of Free

She was the subject of a portrait talk at the National Portrait Gallery Thursday evening.

Standing in front of this sketch by Pierre Morand which is part of the “One Life: The Mask of Lincoln” exhibit, Erin Carlson Mast, the curator of the Lincoln Cottage, presented a biographical sketch about Mrs. Lincoln whom Ms. Mast knows quite a lot about.

Mrs. Lincoln had 10 years of schooling; President Lincoln, one, Ms. Mast said. Mrs. Lincoln came from a wealthy family in Lexington, KY, and her Confederate roots were problematic. Like her husband, she loved the arts, literature and the theatre. She had her own “redeeming qualities,” Ms. Mask said.

She mentioned the military presence in the background of what looks like Lafayette Square in the 1864 sketch.

The crowd of about 40 packed the small gallery and strained to hear every word of the presentation. Mostly it was middle-aged women and a few men who attended.

How nice to be in surroundings where Mary Todd Lincoln was not castigated as a bad influence, and crazy, dazed, manipulative, extravagant, unfriendly, evil and what are some of the other adjectives used to describe her? Oh, yes, lest I forget, she may have had a hand in her husband’s assassination. He married her, didn’t he?

In May Catherine Clinton, the author of Mrs. Lincoln: A Life published this year, will speak about her book at Lincoln’s Cottage.

A Portrait Gallery representative told me the museum has received a lot of interest in its First Ladies portraits which the Portrait Gallery is trying to beef up.

Next up at these wonderful Thursday 6 p.m. “Face to Face” talks is Toni Morrison’s portrait, to be presented by Warren Perry April 2.

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