James Swanson on Lincoln’s Assassination (Lincoln Log Podcast)
The second life of a painting about the murder of Lincoln
Report from Ford’s Theater
Recently, at the Washington Ford Theater, where an attempt on the life of President Abraham Lincoln was committed more than a century and a half ago, a unique painting was displayed for all to see. The canvas, created by an eyewitness to the tragedy, tells about the first minutes after the fatal shot at the 16th US President. The fate of this picture – in the report of our correspondent.
On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary attended a performance at this theater. Actor John Booth fatally wounded Lincoln by shooting him straight from the stage in front of an astonished audience.
The wounded Lincoln was transferred to the house opposite, where he died on the morning of April 15.
A painting by a German artist who witnessed the tragedy tells about the chaos and confusion of that night.
Laura Anderson, an employee of the U.S. National Park Service, explains:
“Next to Petersen’s apartment building, where the wounded president was transferred, there was an artist – that day he was working on sketches for the parade in honor of the end of the Civil War. He immediately realized that something extremely important had happened, and was able to sketch how the wounded president was carried. This sketch later formed the basis of the picture. “
Karl Bersch’s canvas suffered several unsuccessful attempts to restore faded paints, and in the end it was again in the hands of restorers.
“In the 37 years that I have been involved in the restoration of art objects, I have never seen the memories of that tragic night at the Ford Theater, captured in the picture, – says restorer David Olin. “Lincoln’s assassination canvas is a completely unique artifact.”.
Olin and his team worked on the restoration of the painting for six months:
“We started with the so-called cleaning … That is, removing the previous layers, then we switched to restoring the structure. Then, point by point, a pigment was introduced, which is time-tested and can be safely removed, into existing spaces, cracks and abrasions. The goal of our work was to return the artist’s idea after cleaning. “.
“We managed to remove a century-old plaque that overshadowed the artist’s original design,” says Tamara Luzeki, an employee of Olin Restoration. “Today, exhibition visitors and history buffs can enjoy the original, not the mask that has been visible for many, many decades.”.
I hope that when our visitors see this picture, they will be able to experience all the drama of that night at the Ford Theater. It was a historic moment. For the first time in the United States, a president was killed, and then a peaceful transition of power took place. All this is a dramatic story that was captured in this picture. “.
The painting is exhibited in the theater museum, just a few steps from the site where the assassination attempt was made on Abraham Lincoln.