Abraham Lincoln

images for Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln: Male
Abraham Lincoln: Law and Law Enforcement\Lawyer
Abraham Lincoln: Military\Soldier
Abraham Lincoln: Politics and Government\President of US
Abraham Lincoln: Society and Social Change\Reformer\Environmentalist
Abraham Lincoln: Business and Industry\Merchant
Abraham Lincoln: Politics and Government\US Congressman\Illinois
Abraham Lincoln: Politics and Government\Government Official\Surveyor
Abraham Lincoln: Politics and Government\State Senator\Illinois
Abraham Lincoln: Politics and Government\Government Official\Postmaster
Abraham Lincoln: Crafts and Trades\Boat builder
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
Alexander Gardner, 17 Oct 1821 - 1882
Abraham Lincoln, 12 Feb 1809 - 15 Apr 1865
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution: Courtesy of the Polaroid Corporation
Internal dye diffusion transfer print on paper
Image: 45 x 38.6cm (17 11/16 x 15 3/16")
Mat: 71.1 x 55.9cm (28 x 22")
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
United States\District of Columbia\Washington
1865 (printed 1981)
Exhibition Label
The “cracked-plate” image of Abraham Lincoln, taken by Alexander Gardner on February 5, 1865, is one of the most important and evocative photographs in American history. In preparing for his second inaugural, Lincoln had a series of photographs taken at Gardner’s studio. During this sitting, Gardner created this portrait by accident: at some point, possibly when the glass-plate negative was heated to receive a coat of varnish, a crack appeared in the upper half of the plate. Gardner pulled a single print and then discarded the plate, so only one such portrait exists.
The portrait represents a radical departure from Gardner’s usual crisp empiricism. The shallow depth of field created when Gardner moved his camera in for a close-up yielded a photograph whose focus is confined to the plane of Lincoln’s cheeks, while the remainder of the image appears diffused and even out of focus. Lincoln is careworn and tired, his face grooved by the emotional shocks of war. Yet his face also bears a small smile, perhaps as he contemplates the successful conclusion of hostilities and the restoration of the Union. This is Lincoln between life and death, between his role as a historical actor and the mystical figure that he would become with his assassination. Although Lincoln looked forward to his second term, we know, as he could not, that he will soon be assassinated. This image inextricably links history and myth, creating one of the most powerful American portraits.
Object number