Artwork of the Week: February 2018 (Week 8)
Jay Hambidge (1867-1924), The Assassination of Lincoln (Booth Vaulted to the Stage), oil on canvas, 23 ½ x 18 ½ inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchase/gift of the Mahonri M. Young Estate, 1959.
On this President’s Day, we contemplate Jay Hambridge’s portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865. Painted in grisaille (shades of gray) as a book illustration, its color-drained pallor communicates the sense of tragic loss at Ford’s Theatre, immediately after the Civil War’s immeasurable carnage.
Having heard the gunshot, the foreground figure turns to search the audience for he-knows-not-what, and cries out in terror. Above, shock turns to sorrow in the aspects of two men witnessing the President’s head fall forward onto the stars of the bunting flag. John Wilkes Booth leaps from the box to the stage while one spur catches on another flag.
Walt Whitman’s lamentation, “Oh Captain, My Captain,” captures many American’s disbelief and mournful sorrow at this first presidential assassination, a sentiment still felt today. Lincoln’s legacy of moral conviction endures, cherished both by Americans and by the peoples of many lands.