Lincoln in Color

In 1860 two things happened: The popular Artist George Peter Alexander Healy painted a realistic portrait of Abraham Lincoln, and the photographer Alexander Hesler (yes, his name is strangely similar to Healy’s last two names) photographed numerous images of Lincoln using the wet-plate collodion technique. The photographs are considered by many to be among the best ever taken of Lincoln. In another coincidence, the pose, angle and look of the President in Healy’s painting (there may be more, but I’m only aware of the one) were very similar to Helser’s photographs, with just a slight change in the angle of Lincolns head. In the image below, I combined the black and white photograph with the colors of the painting. Healy did an amazingly realistic job, but it’s of course impossible to paint the exact duplicate of reality that a camera sees. With this in mind I warped the painting to fit the photo, then applied the color. The result is what I believe to be a pretty close representation of Lincoln, since the color is from an artist trying to match reality, helped now by modern technology to be even closer, and the luminance being taken from the best of what photography had to offer at the time. I left all of the imperfections in from the original collodion plate to preserve reality as much as possible. Click the image for high-res.

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2 thoughts on “Lincoln in Color

  1. I may have seen as many likenesses of Lincoln as anyone has ever seen and believe the one above to be the best, most realistic image as there has ever been. Truly great. A flattering tribute to such a great man. Thanks.

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