Vanity, Thy Name Is…
“I don’t control painting, painting controls me.” ~ Hubert Roestenburg, German Expressionist
Left: Henri Matisse, Woman in a Hat (1920) Private Collection.
What can art teach us about human motivation? It is in our nature to surround ourselves with the people and things that reinforce our self-image and belief systems, as evidenced in the case of the current president? Take notice of the ‘new’ oval office and the change in art work that now hangs within sight of the chief executive, and all those who care to notice in photographs of proceedings there. To the right of the desk, from a viewer’s perspective, is a large portrait of Andrew Jackson (c. 1834), by then-Nashville colleague and White House resident artist, Ralph E.W. Earl. Jackson lost a bitterly contested election to John Quincy Adams in `24. His next campaign—characterized by his rough-hewn style and unconventional Tennessee country ways—was aimed at earning the vote of the ordinary man. This carried him to victory in 1828. In order to manage his public image, it is said that Jackson kept the artist close by in the years that followed, requiring that multiple portraits be produced to reinforce the perception of the man as a heroic and statesman-like figure. (more…)