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Source: St. Louis Republic
Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “Revised National Picture of President McKinley”
Author(s): anonymous
City of publication: St. Louis, Missouri
Date of publication: 12 July 1903
Volume number: 96
Issue number: 12
Part/Section: magazine section
Pagination: [5]

“Revised National Picture of President McKinley.” St. Louis Republic 12 July 1903 v96n12: mag. sect., p. [5].
full text
William McKinley (paintings); McKinley memorialization; Harriet Anderson Stubbs Murphy; Harriet Anderson Stubbs Murphy (public statements).
Named persons
William R. Day; Marcus Hanna; William McKinley; Harriet Anderson Stubbs Murphy; John Tyler.
The identity of Professor Lawrence (below) cannot be determined. Fairman’s Art and Artists of the Capitol of the United States of America (1927) identifies Murphy as being “a pupil of Lorenz and William Morgan.” Possibly then Lawrence is an erroneous reference to Richard Lorenz.

It cannot be determined which President Harrison is being referred to below.

The article is accompanied on the same page with two photographs, captioned as follows (respectively): “Murphy Portrait of the Late President as It Was Originally;” “As It Is Since Slight Alterations Were Made.”


Revised National Picture of President McKinley


Woman Artist Painted Portrait That Is to Hang in the White House.

     The official portrait of President McKinley, recently hung in the White House, is the work of an American woman.
     Among the portraits of all the Presidents thus displayed, it is the first to have been executed by a woman, nor is it by any means the least interesting or meritorious.
     The appropriation of $2,500 by Congress for a portrait of the late President naturally excited unusual interest among artists.
     Many well-known artistic names were numbered among the contestants.
     The portrait finally chosen among many, after careful artistic consideration, is by Mrs. W. D. Murphy of New York City.
     In her art education and experience, and in her sympathies, in everything, in short, but her birth, she is an American.
     She was born in England, coming to America when a mere child.
     Her home was at first in Canada, whence she was sent to New York to further her artistic education. Her talent was evident very early, attracting considerable attention.
     Mrs. Murphy cannot remember, she says, when she began to draw. As a child she was always drawing, so that her talent seems to antedate her earliest recollection.


     Her artistic training and experience were had in the East.
     In addition to attending the schools she had the advantage of private instructors, among them Professor Lawrence of Munich.
     She has never returned to Europe since her leaving England. The art galleries and exhibitions in New York, she says, have been her chief source of instruction and inspiration.
     She attends them all regularly, sitting for hours before the canvases to study their secrets.
     It is, of course, particularly remarkable that thus handicapped Mrs. Murphy’s portrait of President McKinley should have been chosen from among the contributions of many of wider opportunity.
     The present portrait was painted from photographs. Not only had Mrs. Murphy no sitting, but she had never seen President McKinley.
     The accepted portrait is life size and represents the late President holding his glasses in his left hand and a sheet of paper in the right, a characteristic attitude of Mr. McKinley when talking.
     His closest friends, Senator Hanna and Judge Day, passed upon the portrait and declared it to be an excellent likeness, the best they had seen of him, a characteristic and spirited portraiture of the man, expressing the full power, benevolence and impressiveness of President McKinley’s remarkable countenance.


     On several occasions the portrait has been a model for sculptors desiring to execute statues of McKinley.
     The portrait has just been hung in the Colonial Hall of the White House at the side of the large mirrors, in one of the places formerly occupied by the portraits of President Harrison and President Tyler.
     When the painting was completed it was taken from Mrs. Murphy’s studio and placed in the Corcoran Art Gallery, in Washington, where it attracted a great deal of attention.
     “By whom was it painted?” was constantly being asked. The interest manifested in it showed more than anything else the public appreciation of the work.
     When $2,500 was appropriated by Congress for the purchase of a portrait of the late President, Mrs. Murphy submitted her work.
     The judges were confronted with work from the brushes of men whose reputation in the world of art is unimpeachable.
     The judges were selected as the most competent men in the country to judge of the merits of the portrait.
     The competitors were somewhat taken aback when the announcement was made that the work of a woman had won, in spite of the ancient tradition that a woman must always stay in the background of art when in competition with men.
     When they saw the accepted portrait their doubts were silenced and they expressed the utmost satisfaction in the selection.


     “I appreciate the honor of contributing to so famous a collection,” said Mrs. Murphy in speaking of her success. “That my portrait of President McKinley should have been chosen means, of course, that not alone the art critics, but the intimate friends of the late President, were pleased with my effort.
     “This means much to me. I like to think that I have caught the character of the man, the subtle something which finds expression in the bearing and expression of my model.
     “The word model is perhaps misleading. I never saw President McKinley in my life.
     “In painting his portrait, therefore, I was obliged to work solely from photographs, aided by the impression I had gathered of his personality.
     “They tell me that I have been happy in catching this latter, and I can only say I am very glad.
     “The portrait as it now hangs in the halls of the White House differs in no essential from the original sketch submitted by me in the competition.
     “The face and figure, in fact, remain exactly as I first conceived them and placed them upon the canvas. The only alterations I may call trifling, although I cheerfully substituted them.
     “When Senator Hanna and Justice Day saw the McKinley portrait the first suggestion made was that the flag which formed part of the background on the painting be removed and a plain dark tone substituted.
     “The reasons for the change were very characteristic. It was Senator Hanna who explained: ‘President McKinley, you know, had no patent on the American flag.’ Among all the portraits of the Presidents in the White House I found that the flag had been omitted.
     “A scroll of paper was also placed in one hand, at the Senator’s suggestion. The only other alteration was to slightly reduce the waist line [sic]. The President’s friends who examined the portrait agreed that the figure as I had drawn it was true to life.
     “The face and general expression as I had reproduced it have been much praised by several of President McKinley’s closest friends.”



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