During the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, photographs of Lincoln flourished to help satisfy what seemed to be an insatiable demand for his image. While he sat for numerous photographers, notably Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner, few portraits from life exist. This portrait, executed in a free style with expressive paint handling characteristic of the work of Joseph Alexander Ames, is one of several paintings Ames created of the beloved President between 1864 and 1865.
Boston painter Joseph Alexander Ames revered Lincoln. A contemporary account of the artist records that, "Mr. Ames had seen and loved the President, had talked with him and studied his features well" ("Portrait of Abraham Lincoln," Dwight's Journal of Music (Boston, April 29, 1865) in Mass Goodspeed, Portraits, Drawings, Game & Sport, Views & Maps, Fine Prints, Marines, Etc. (Boston, 1945), p. 4). Ames' wife, sculptor Sarah Fisher Ames also held a relationship with the President through her time as a nurse in charge of a hospital at the Capitol during the Civil War and completed several busts of Lincoln from life (Rufus Rockwell Wilson, Lincoln in Portraiture (New York, 1935), p. 179).
According to the family inventories of Wilfred Buckley's estate, Moundsmere Manor, this painting was located in the drawing room and is listed as painted from life (Law, Fowlsham, and Cole, "A Valued Inventory: Moundsmere Manor" (1923 and 1932). Another portrait of Lincoln, now in the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey was also previously in Buckley's collection (fig. 1). Holding strong stylistic similarities between the now offered example, this painting was described as being "one of the few portraits of that great man [Lincoln] which were done from life" (Country Life (March 10, 1910), p. 378).
The portrait offered here was originally owned by Martin Parry Kennard (1818-1903), an avid collector of historical documents and autographed letters (Probate Record, Martin Parry Kennard, Norfolk County, filed November 23, 1903). He established the successful business firm of Bigelow, Kennard & Co. and, upon leaving the commercial business world, he served as sub-treasurer of the United States in Boston for thirteen years under Presidents Hayes, Arthur, Harrison and Cleveland. Much like Lincoln, Kennard was a Whig who joined the Republican Party upon its formation and was moved by strong anti-slavery sentiment (John William Denehy, A History of Brookline, Massachusetts (Brookline, Massachusetts, 1905), p. 224).
Before Kennard's death, the painting was inherited by his grandson Wilfred Buckley, probably while he was residing in New York from 1895 to 1905. A wealthy shipping merchant, Buckley returned to England and resided at Moundsmere Manor at Preston in the English countryside until his death in 1933. A collector of paintings and antiquities, Buckley's collection of antique glass remains an important part of the Victoria and Albert Museum (Philip Sheail, "Wilfred Buckley of Moundsmere and the Clean Milk Campaign," Hampshire Papers (May 25, 2003).