Written by Allie Gloe, Curatorial Intern
This sensitive portrait of Andrew Jackson was painted just days before his death and, sadly, does not represent the Andrew Jackson nicknamed “Old Hickory” for his tough personality. Jackson is seated in the center of the three-quarter portrait and barely slouching in a black chair. His brown and black overcoat blend in with the dark brown background and black chair as his shirt falls into shadow. This creates an illumination of Jackson’s drawn face and grey hair, and draws the viewer’s attention to his drooping grey eyes, which were once a deep blue. In this portrait, Andrew Jackson is an old and dying man, exhausted from illness.
This portrait was painted shortly after King Louis-Philippe of France received news that Jackson was sick. He called upon George P. A. Healy, who had a studio in Paris and worked on commissioned portraits in France under royal patronage, to paint Jackson’s portrait. Practically against his will, Jackson decided to sit for the tenacious artist at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, even though he was tired and in pain. Healy painted three versions of the portrait and found them so moving that he kept one copy for himself. Healy’s copy is the portrait that hangs in the Cummer Museum. Healy continued to paint hundreds of portraits in America, including portraits of other presidents.