Due to the illumination
from photographic lights, sculptural patinas are very difficult to photograph.
Since these castings have a bronze surface, the patina is hand applied using
traditional bronze patina techniques. The color is a rich dark aged brown with a
hint of red overlaying a golden undercoat. The brown patina is partially hand rubbed
back to reveal varied and complex golden bronze highlights which are evident on raised
areas contrasted by subtle shadows in recessed areas. The resulting
patina is rich and traditional and will appear different in different light
settings. In a dark room the patina will appear dark and aged but
under light the incredible golden brown patina will be revealed. Under direct
sunlight or the photo flood lights used in these photographs, the finish will
appear brighter and lighter than normal. The areas on the busts which are
normally black such as hair, beard, suspenders, and tie and coat have a very
subtle black patina applied over the finish which is then rubbed back. To
prevent tarnishing, the patina is sealed with a lacquer coating and buffed with
bronze paste wax. Although the surface is durable, care should be
exercised to avoid scratches with metallic objects. Polish the casting
with a dry soft dust
cloth and once or twice a year use a small amount of paste wax.
Searching for Lincoln's Spirit
As a member of the Abraham Lincoln
Association and the Lincoln Forum, and a life long
Lincoln Admirer, I have long desired to create an original portrait tribute to
this great American. As the project developed, I realized that the key to
understanding President Lincoln's personality lay in appreciating his
development as a "Prairie Lawyer." His early political career
and his years of tireless work as an attorney, defending the Constitution and
the common man, laid the foundation of his strong character and political integrity
that would guide President Lincoln through the most difficult period in our
When Mr. Lincoln moved from Springfield to Washington D.C., the
nation was moving into war. During the next four years, the face of
Abraham Lincoln became a mirror of the soul of the nation, indelibly etched with
the turmoil of a struggling democracy. In a very real sense, Mr. Lincoln's
physical, emotional, and intellectual transformation paralleled the
transformation of America. Yet for all these changes, he was still the
same man-the practical prairie lawyer from Illinois.
Abraham Lincoln may have been the only man alive who could have
presided over the Civil War to reunite the nation and abolish slavery. Why
was he different, what aspects of his character gave him the uncanny ability to
weigh the past, present, and future, to clearly see both sides of any issue and
to arrive at a common sense solution? Why, above all others, did he posses
the self reliance and determination to see the job through? What were Mr.
Lincoln's hopes and aspirations, his agonies and torments? These are the
questions I ask myself every time I view his face.
When I tried to capture the spirit and character of this great
man, I realized that since both periods of his life were so intimately
intertwined, two portraits- attorney and president- were necessary to fulfill my
vision of Mr. Lincoln. Only through two portraits could I show the
transition and the struggle, the strength and the triumph, and the mortal cost
of that triumph.
The resulting twin portraits are therefore spiritually,
artistically, and intellectually bonded as a single work. When both
portraits are experienced together, the viewer can feel the pressures and
changes which molded Lincoln's destiny and the destiny of America. I hope
that these portraits will contribute artistically to a more intimate
understanding of Mr. Lincoln. In honor of all all that they represent, I
have called them:
A Portrait of Transition:
"Prairie Lawyer" and "Immortal Conscience."
Abraham Lincoln's Image
When this project began, I collected a great many pictures of Mr. Lincoln and
enlarged them to life size copies in my darkroom. I soon realized that every
picture of Mr. Lincoln looked like an entirely different person. This was
due in part to his incredibly complicated face and the ravages of time and in
part to the distortions and limitations inherent in the early cameras. To
create the image I wanted, I needed more than a collection of photographs; I
needed a lifemask.
Masks have been used for hundreds of years by sculptors and painters as stand
ins for subjects who were unavailable. The early mask casting process
required the subject to endure a long period of discomfort, and the unnatural
compression of the skin and facial muscles by the plaster often resulted in a
severe, deathly look. Even with these major limitations, masks were and
still are a very useful reference tool which can guide the artist in proper
proportion and skull structure. A mask is not a work of art or sculpture, only a
The Research Process
Two life masks were made of Abraham Lincoln.
The first, shown on this page by artist Leonard Volk, was made in March of 1860
and shows a robust Lincoln without a beard. The second, by sculptor Clark
Mills, is a full head cast made in 1865, just two months before Lincoln was assassinated.
The latter reveals a fragile face, ravaged by the pressures
of presiding over the most devastating war of our history, the Civil War.
The trauma of the struggle revealed by that mask has often led others to call it
a death mask, but it is not.
After several months of nationwide correspondence with
knowledgeable curators of Lincoln artifacts, I was graciously granted permission
by the staff at the Lincoln Museum to come to Ft. Wayne to make my own molds of
their priceless Volk and Mills masks. With plaster copies made from these
molds and with my photographic enlargements of every known Lincoln pose, I now possessed
all of the physical research material I needed to proceed with the
portraits. Before I could begin the sculpture and before I could hope to
capture Lincoln's spirit in clay, I needed to become intimately familiar with
Abraham Lincoln the person.
When one views a work of art, one is really seeing the
subject through the eyes and heart of the artist. The artist must be so
familiar with the subject's character that he or she can bring personal insight
and personal feeling into the work, as well as craftsmanship and artistry.
Only then can an artist hope to achieve expressiveness and sensitivity and raise
the work to the level of fine art.
In my pursuit of this elusive goal, I relied on my
years of Lincoln study as a solid foundation and expanded my knowledge and
understanding with an intensive reading program of Lincoln material. I
frequently traveled to Lincoln sites around the country to experience first hand
his life surroundings and attended numerous symposia presented by leading Lincoln
scholars. For two years, I totally immersed myself in Abraham Lincoln,
searching for the understanding that would lead me to his spirit, and the hope
that I could express this understanding in these portraits.
Lawyer": Lincoln on the Threshold of Greatness
In creating the "Prairie Lawyer," I imagined Mr.
Lincoln as he might have been in 1860, charged with energy after his successful
Cooper Union address in New York on February 25th, eight months before his
election as President of the United States. This Lincoln is robust, full of
life, hope, and eagerness to meet the challenges of the future.
meteoric rise to national prominence actually began two years before with his unsuccessful
attempt to win the Illinois Senate seat from Stephen A. Douglas. Although
he lost the election, his series of historic debates with Douglas launched him
on his journey to the White House. After two years on the campaign trail,
his passion for his political beliefs was well known, and his reputation for
strength and stamina- the "Illinois Rail Splitter" image - was
Lincoln, self taught, hard working, and intelligent, understood
the value of knowledge, the wisdom of the Constitution, and the necessity of the
law. His convictions led to an early interest in politics, and he served
four successive terms in the Illinois stat legislature and one term in the U.S.
House of Representatives. He did not seek re-election, choosing instead to
return to Springfield and his thriving law practice.
Despite his decision
to avoid politics, threatening national events, and the impending spread of
slavery (made possible through the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act in 1854),
forced his strong moral convictions to return to the political arena.
Above all else, Lincoln's face shows those moral convictions- convictions strong
enough to bring this humble man to greatness.
This is the face, on the threshold of greatness, that addressed
the audience at the Cooper Union rally in February, 1860. It is a face
that possesses the experience of fifty one years on the frontier of
America. A face that shows through sunburn and lines the hardship of his
early life and the character of his intellectual development. A face that wears
many personal tragedies, yet is still graced with the wrinkles of laughter and
the kindness of soul. If there has ever been a face that possessed both
humility and greatness, it is the face of the "Prairie Lawyer,"
Abraham Lincoln "Immortal Conscience"
Scarcely five years passed from Lincoln's triumphant Cooper Union address to
the end of the Civil War on April 9, 1865. Those five years produced
profound changes in our nation and equally profound changes in the face of
Civil War began just one month after Lincoln's inauguration and lasted four
years. In its wake, hundreds of thousands of Americans lay dead and
wounded. The nation, ripped apart, had been brought back together, but at
a terrible cost.
In creating the second half of my portrait, "Immortal Conscience,"
I decided to portray President Lincoln as I believe he would have appeared the
day before his assassination, April 14th, 1865. The war has ended; he
feels deep remorse for the nation's sacrifice, yet is comforted in the knowledge
that the Union has been preserved and slavery abolished. Mr. Lincoln
projects a calm confidence that the future will "bind up the nation's
My favorite photograph from this period, and the one that provided me with
the most inspiration, was taken by Alexander Gardner on Sunday, February 5th
1865, two months before Lincoln's death. The photograph shows a tired
president, physically frail and ravaged by the responsibilities and pressures of
the war. This Lincoln has lost twenty-five pounds from his already sparse
frame. He suffers from poor health; his sunken eyes gaze into the remote
distance, seemingly aware of his impending fate and knowing that his life's
greatest challenge is almost complete. To study his face is to study the tragedies
of war and the transcendence of spirit.
Although physically frail and visibly tired, President Lincoln possesses an
inner strength which comes from his "Immortal Conscience"- the
unshakable conviction that "These dead shall not have died in vain; that
this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that this government of the
people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the
cast in Loveland, Colorado
States of America
by Mel Schockner