Abraham Lincoln

Media - 1967.59.643 - SAAM-1967.59.643_2 - 141185
Copied William H. Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, ca. 1945, oil on paperboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, 1967.59.643

Artwork Details

Abraham Lincoln
ca. 1945
Not on view
36 1433 38 in. (92.184.7 cm.)
Credit Line
Gift of the Harmon Foundation
Mediums Description
oil on paperboard
  • Occupation — political — president
  • Portrait male — Lincoln, Abraham
  • State of being — death — execution
  • Emblem — cross
  • History — United States — Civil War
  • Object — other — flag
Object Number

Artwork Description

Johnson's painting identifies key episodes in the life of Abraham Lincoln (1809--1865), from the log cabin where he grew up, to his election to the U.S. House of Representatives (symbolized by the U.S. Capitol), the capture of his assassin John Wilkes Booth, and the execution of Booth's co-conspirators. The crosses at the lower left honor the deaths of more than fifty thousand soldiers--Northern and Southern--who lost their lives at the battle of Gettysburg, which was considered the turning point in the Civil War. The red cross is likely a reference to Clara Barton, the government office-worker-turned-nurse who, with Lincoln's blessing, tended wounded soldiers on the battlefield. The flags and the hands holding the paper refer to the Gettysburg Address in which the sixteenth president reaffirmed that the nation, which had been "conceived in Liberty," was "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." On the right, a Union soldier drags Booth from the burning barn in northern Virginia where he had hidden after killing Lincoln. Below are prison bars and a scaffold from which Booth's co-conspirators hang.   


Media - 1983.95.53 - SAAM-1983.95.53_2 - 142417
Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice
October 13, 2023February 25, 2024
William H. Johnson's Fighters for Freedom series from the mid-1940s is a tribute to African American activists, scientists, teachers, and performers as well as international heads of state working to bring peace to the world. The exhibition Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice is drawn entirely from the collection of more than 1,000 works by William H. Johnson given to the Smithsonian American Art Museum by the Harmon Foundation in 1967 and reminds us that individual achievement and commitment to social justice are at the heart of the American story.