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Thomas Wilmer Dewing

Walt Whitman
1875
chalk
24 1/2 x 18 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Robert Tyler Davis Memorial Fund

Dewing expressed his admiration for Whitman by idealizing his image. He gave the poet's full beard a silky quality, and he reduced the wrinkles of his face and eyelids to create a monumental and eternal presence. By 1875, Whitman had suffered a paralytic stroke, and his health was in decline, but his reputation as one of America's greatest living poets had been firmly established.