The Speaker Portrait Collection

The House of Representatives Speaker Portrait Collection is a vital visual record of House history. As noted in the bronze plaque hung in the Speaker’s Lobby, the collection was conceived as a “tribute to their worth to the nation.” It began informally with artist Giuseppe Fagnani’s 1852 donation of his portrait of Speaker Henry Clay. This initial gift was followed by more donations. In 1910, the House mandated that it must acquire an oil portrait of every Speaker “of whom no acceptable portrait was in possession of the House.” Posthumous portraits were commissioned to commemorate the missing Speakers, and Speakers began to have portraits painted during their lifetimes. Portraits of Speakers hang in the Speaker’s Lobby and adjoining stairwells.

Below, official portraits of the Speakers of the House are highlighted.

Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg
<em>Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg</em>/tiles/non-collection/s/sr_speakers_portraits_frederick_muhlenberg_2005_016_001.xml
The House’s portrait of the first Speaker, Frederick Muhlenberg, was the fourth portrait added to the Speaker portrait collection. The painting by Samuel Waugh was presented to the House as a gift from Muhlenberg’s descendents in 1881, and is copy of a 1790 original by Joseph Wright. The portrait shows Muhlenberg signing House Bill 65, “An Act to regulate Trade and Intercourse with the Indian Tribes,” which took place on July 20, 1790.
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Henry Clay
<em>Henry Clay</em>/tiles/non-collection/s/sr_speakers_portraits_henry_clay_2005_016_007.xml
Henry Clay's portrait was given to the House by artist Italian Giuseppe Fagnani in 1852, shortly after the statesman’s death. The portrait was accepted by a Joint Resolution on July 3, 1852. As ordered by this resolution, the Clay portrait was displayed in the Library of Congress, then located in the Capitol. After 1857, when the House moved into its newly built chamber, the portrait was moved to the Speaker’s Lobby, where it remains today.
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Thomas Brackett Reed
<em>Thomas Brackett Reed</em>/tiles/non-collection/s/sr_speakers_portraits_thomas_reed_2005_016_032.xml
Known for his biting wit and keen intellect, Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed wielded considerable power as Speaker. In 1891, Reed’s supporters raised funds to commission a portrait by John Singer Sargent, the most prominent American portraitist of his day. Reed’s personal characteristics created a quandary for the artist, who said of Reed that his “…expression does not correspond with his spirit…” The resulting portrait is dark and moody, in Sargent’s signature painterly style.
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Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn
<em>Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn</em>/tiles/non-collection/s/sr_speakers_portraits_sam_rayburn_2005_016_043.xml
With ten terms as Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn served the post longer than any other Speaker. During Rayburn’s sittings with British artist Douglas Chandor—which took place early in the morning before he arrived at the Capitol and late in the evenings after the House adjourned–three portraits were made. In addition to the Speaker portrait, one was completed for East Texas Teacher’s College (now Texas A&M), which Rayburn attended, and the Texas State Capitol in Austin.
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Jonathan Trumbull
<em>Jonathan Trumbull</em>/tiles/non-collection/T/Trumbull.xml
The House acquired Harry Ives Thompson’s posthumous portrait as a gift from Speaker Jonathan Trumbull’s home state of Connecticut in 1888. The artist modeled the likeness on a 1790s miniature bust-length portrait by James Peale. Thompson expanded the scope, making the portrait waist-length and set in a furnished interior, lending a greater sense of formality and grandeur.
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Jonathan Dayton
<em>Jonathan Dayton</em>/tiles/non-collection/D/Dayton.xml
Jonathan Dayton’s portrait by Henry Harrison is based on a profile drawing of the Speaker, also in the House Collection. This work was among the first paintings commissioned following the mandate for the institution to acquire oil paintings of each former Speaker. The Harrison portrait shows a rather more polished individual than the original drawing, but retains the profile format, unusual among the Speaker portraits.
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Theodore Sedgwick
<em>Theodore Sedgwick</em>/tiles/non-collection/S/Sedgewick.xml
Edgar Parker was commissioned to paint a copy of Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Sedgwick (today at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). This portrait—along with those of Speakers Banks, Varnum and Winthrop—were given to the House of Representatives on January 19, 1888. Parker’s portrait is a faithful copy of the original, capturing Stuart’s rendition of Sedgwick’s direct and challenging address of the viewer.
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Nathaniel Macon
<em>Nathaniel Macon</em>/tiles/non-collection/M/Macon.xml
Speaker of the House Nathaniel Macon’s portrait was part of group of portraits of Speakers acquired in 1911 to replace fragile drawings in the House Collection. Massachusetts artist Robert Gauley received the commission. Like many American artists of his generation, Gauley trained at Académie Julien in Paris. He is best known for his landscapes, and several of his works are held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
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Joseph B. Varnum
<em>Joseph B. Varnum</em>/tiles/non-collection/V/Varnum.xml
Charles Loring Elliott, a prolific mid-nineteenth century portrait artist known for his fluid brush and unsentimental likenesses, based this 1850s portrait on an even earlier work by Ezra Ames that was painted during Varnum’s lifetime. The portrait’s emphasis on lively textures—such as the sitter’s unruly hair and lace cuffs and collar—give the painting a sense of movement and vibrancy.
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Langdon Cheves
<em>Langdon Cheves</em>/tiles/non-collection/C/Cheves.xml
Canadian artist Hal Morrison completed the Langdon Cheves portrait in 1912, as part of the effort initiated the previous year to ensure that the service of all former Speakers of the House all was honored with a portrait. Morrison’s work was based on an early nineteenth-century work by Charles Fraser, which was completed during Cheves’s tenure on the South Carolina Supreme Court, after the conclusion of his House service.
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John W. Taylor
<em>John W. Taylor</em>/tiles/non-collection/T/Taylor.xml
Painted after an unattributed miniature in the House Collection, the full-sized John W. Taylor portrait commission was completed in 1900 by Caroline L. O. Ransom, a successful painter who was called a “pioneer woman artist” in a 1903 Washington Star article. Her portrait of Taylor reflects the precise, highly finished look of the original.
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Andrew Stevenson
<em>Andrew Stevenson</em>/tiles/non-collection/S/Stevenson.xml
Washington, D.C., artist Spencer Baird Nichols received the 1911 commission to replace the Andrew Stevenson portrait on paper previously in the House Collection. The bust-length portrait is similar in pose and composition to a lithograph by Thomas Fairland, also in the House Collection. The artist attended the Corcoran School of Art and was known as a muralist as well as an illustrator and portraitist.
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James K. Polk
<em>James K. Polk</em>/tiles/non-collection/P/Polk.xml
A distant cousin of James K. Polk, Rebecca Polk spent most of her life in France. Her other artistic work is unknown. In the 1926 edition of Art and Artists in the Capitol, author Charles Fairman states, “Whether the portrait be the best or not, it is interesting on account of it being the only portrait of a Speaker of the House who became President of the United States. With two honors of this character it may be permissible to have a portrait which does not appeal to one as being attractive.”
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Robert M. T. Hunter
<em>Robert M. T. Hunter</em>/tiles/non-collection/H/Hunter.xml
Richard Norris Brooke, who also painted the House’s portrait of Representatives and Supreme Court Justice John Marshall, received the 1911 commission for the Hunter portrait. Elected to the post at age 30, Hunter is the youngest person to serve as Speaker. The portrait appears to be based on a variety of images, and the result shows an older man than Hunter was at the time of his Speakership.
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John White
<em>John White</em>/tiles/non-collection/W/White.xml
Irish artist William Gerard Barry completed the 1911 Speaker portrait of John White. Like many artists of his generation, Barry studied at Académie Julien in Paris, after which he settled in the United States to begin his career. The source image for the White portrait is possibly the work on paper that the commission was intended to replace.
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John W. Jones
<em>John W. Jones</em>/tiles/non-collection/J/Jones.xml
Commissioned in 1911 to replace the portrait on paper by Louis Wieser, Speaker John W. Jones’s portrait was completed by James Sword. A prolific landscape and portrait artist who had achieved popular success by the late nineteenth century, Sword was educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, and was influenced by the Hudson River School style.
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John W. Davis
<em>John W. Davis</em>/tiles/non-collection/D/Davis.xml
William D. Murphy, who worked primarily as a photographer, completed the 1911 John W. Davis Speaker portrait commission. Davis is depicted in a standard three-quarter, bust-length view with a dark background. There is no evidence of source material for the portrait. The painting was part of a concerted effort to commission portraits of every former Speaker of the House. Davis served a single Congress as Speaker, before retiring from the House in 1847.
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Robert C. Winthrop
<em>Robert C. Winthrop</em>/tiles/non-collection/W/Winthrop.xml
The Massachusetts State Legislature donated the Robert Winthrop portrait to the House of Representatives in 1882. The pose of the three-quarter length portrait— Winthrop looking thoughtfully to one side, with a sheaf of papers in one hand, as if he is preparing to address an audience—alludes to Winthrop’s reputation as an exceptional orator.
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Howell Cobb
<em>Howell Cobb</em>/tiles/non-collection/C/Cobb.xml
The portrait of Speaker Howell Cobb, purchased by the House of Representatives in 1912, was painted by Lucy May Stanton, a well-respected Georgia artist. Stanton was primarily educated in Paris, studying with James Abbott MacNeill Whistler, among others. Her preferred medium was watercolor miniature, for which she developed a uniquely modern, broadly executed technique. This style is evident in the Cobb portrait, which she based on a photograph taken by Mathew Brady in the 1860s.
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Linn Boyd
<em>Linn Boyd</em>/tiles/non-collection/B/Boyd.xml
New York portrait artist Stanley Middleton likely based the 1911 portrait of Linn Boyd on a print of the Speaker from the 1840s. This work was among those commissioned to replace fragile works on paper in the House Collection. Middleton was trained at Académie Julien in Paris and had a successful career as a portrait artist.
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Nathaniel Prentice Banks
<em>Nathaniel Prentice Banks</em>/tiles/non-collection/B/Banks.xml
Nathaniel Banks posed for artist Robert Vonnah in 1887, although the portrait reflects the sitter’s appearance during his service in the House, 30 years prior. The work dates from early in Vonnah’s career —he went on to achieve great success as a celebrated landscape and portrait painter, and as a gifted teacher. The dark palette, loose brushwork, and the subject’s frank address of the viewer suggest inspiration from the late French realists at this early stage of his career.
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John Bell
<em>John Bell</em>/tiles/non-collection/B/Bell.xml
Commissioned as part of the House’s effort to acquire oil portraits for each former Speaker, the John Bell portrait was acquired in 1911. Willie Betty Newman, who received the commission, was based in Bell’s home state of Tennessee. Bell has been described by biographers as “dignified to the point of aloofness,” a characteristic that Newman captures in the stoic, almost confrontational pose in which she depicts Bell.
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James Lawrence Orr
<em>James Lawrence Orr</em>/tiles/non-collection/O/Orr.xml
James Orr’s Speaker portrait was South Carolina artist Esther Edmonds’ first commission. The work was initially awarded to her father, Abraham Edmonds, but, according to Charles Fairman’s Art and Artists of the Capitol, the elder Edmonds was “unable to comply with the terms.” In fact, Edmonds' father died before the portrait could be completed, and she, trained at Cooper Union and The Art Students League, took up the work in his stead. The posthumous likeness most closely resembles an unattributed engraving of Orr that appeared in a 1857 Harper’s Weekly, where Orr similarly appears bust-length and clean-shaven.
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William Pennington
<em>William Pennington</em>/tiles/non-collection/P/Pennington.xml
William Pennington’s portrait was acquired in 1911 as part of the House’s initiative to acquire oil portraits of each former Speaker. Joseph Lauber, a German-born artist who studied with William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League in New York, completed the commission. As an artist, Lauber was better known for his murals and decorative work. He collaborated with John LaFarge on Cornelius Vanderbilt’s residence, and on the stained glass windows of New York’s Appellate Court.
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Galusha Aaron Grow
<em>Galusha Aaron Grow</em>/tiles/non-collection/G/Grow.xml
In 1891, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania commissioned artist William A. Greaves, a well-regarded artist from the state, to complete portraits of former Speakers Galusha Grow and Samuel J. Randall. Grow posed for his portrait nearly 30 years after he served as Speaker. Both works were presented to the House of Representatives on January 22, 1892. The three-quarter length portrait depicts Grow as an older man than he was during his tenure as Speaker. The strident, firm pose, however, captures the spirit of Grow’s confrontational positions— particularly on the issue of slavery—that defined his early career.
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Schuyler Colfax
<em>Schuyler Colfax</em>/tiles/non-collection/C/Colfax.xml
Ohio artist Freeman Thorp received a number of commissions from the House of Representatives in addition to this 1911 Schuyler Colfax Speaker portrait, giving some credence to the unsubstantiated tale —published in Charles Fairman’s Art and Artists of the Capitol—that he had a rooftop studio in the Capitol. The posthumous Colfax portrait appears to be based on a composite of print and photographic images from the mid-19th century.
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Theodore Medad Pomeroy
<em>Theodore Medad Pomeroy</em>/tiles/non-collection/P/Pomeroy---black.xml
In 1919, it was brought to Speaker Champ Clark’s attention that the House of Representative lacked a portrait of the shortest-serving Speaker, Theodore Pomeroy, who presided for a single day in 1869. Two years later, the House purchased George Clough’s portrait from the Pomeroy family for $1. Clough hailed from upstate New York, and he studied briefly with leading American portrait artist Charles Loring Elliott.
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James Gillespie Blaine
<em>James Gillespie Blaine</em>/tiles/non-collection/B/Blaine.xml
James G. Blaine’s Speaker portrait was commissioned by private contributors and given to the House of Representatives in 1908. Freeman Thorp appears to have based this posthumous portrait on a carte-de-visite of Blaine that dates from around 1880. Thorp received a number of portrait commissions from the House, including Speaker Schuyler Colfax and several chairmen from the Appropriations and Ways and Means Committees.
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Michael Crawford Kerr
<em>Michael Crawford Kerr</em>/tiles/non-collection/K/Kerr.xml
Artist Charles Gray received the 1911 commission for the posthumous Speaker portrait of Michale Kerr as part of the House of Representatives’ effort to obtain oil paintings of each former Speaker of the House. The image is likely based on a Mathew Brady photograph dating from around 1870. Gray was known both as a portrait artist and as the art director of the Chicago Herald and the Chicago Tribune newspapers.
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Samuel Jackson Randall
<em>Samuel Jackson Randall</em>/tiles/non-collection/R/Randall.xml
In 1891, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania commissioned artist William A. Greaves to paint Speaker portraits for both Samuel Randall and Galusha Grow. The Randall portrait was based on a 1879 charcoal drawing by C. Adele Fassett, also in the House Collection. The portraits by Greaves were both presented to the House on January 22, 1892.
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Joseph Warren Keifer
<em>Joseph Warren Keifer</em>/tiles/non-collection/K/Keifer.xml
Charles Gray received the commission to complete Speaker Warren Keifer’s portrait in 1912. Gray was known as both a portrait artist and as the art director of the Chicago Herald and Chicago Tribune. In addition to the Keifer portrait, Gray painted Speaker Michael Kerr’s portrait for the House of Representatives.
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John Griffin Carlisle
<em>John Griffin Carlisle</em>/tiles/non-collection/C/Carlisle.xml
Artist Ellen Day Hale based the 1911 commission for Speaker John Carlisle’s portrait on 19th century carte-de-visite photographs. Hale began her training in Boston with William Morris Hunt, and later went to Paris to study with Carolus Duran and William Adolphe-Bouguereau at Académie Julien. As seen in the Carlisle portrait, Hale developed a broad, bold painting style, which grew out of her early studies with Hunt and the influence of the Barbizon style and 19th century French realism.
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Charles Frederick Crisp
<em>Charles Frederick Crisp</em>/tiles/non-collection/C/Crisp-029.xml
Washington, D.C., artist Robert Hinckley painted Speaker Charles Crisp’s portrait, which was given to the House of Representatives in 1894. Hinckley trained in Paris and studied in the same workshop as John Singer Sargent, who painted the portrait of Crisp’s frequent adversary, Thomas B. Reed. Upon his return to the United States, Hinckley taught at the Corcoran School of Art and became a popular portraitist among the Washington elite.
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David Bremner Henderson
<em>David Bremner Henderson</em>/tiles/non-collection/H/Henderson.xml
Freeman Thorp’s portrait of Speaker David Henderson was purchased through private contributions and given to the House of Representatives in 1913. The painting, though, was reportedly hung in the Speaker’s Lobby in 1903, upon Henderson’s retirement. Thorp received a number of commissions from the House of Representatives, giving some credence to the unsubstantiated tale—published in Charles Fairman’s Art and Artists of the Capitol (1926)—that he had a rooftop studio in the Capitol.
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Joseph Gurney Cannon
<em>Joseph Gurney Cannon</em>/tiles/non-collection/C/Cannon.xml
In Charles Fairman’s Art and Artists of the Capitol (1926), Speaker Joseph Cannon’s portrait is described as a ”thoroughly attractive” work, combining good technique with a convincing likeness of the sitter. William T. Smedley, who studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts with Thomas Eakins, had a successful early career as an illustrator, which segued to portrait commissions by the turn of the 20th century.
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James Beauchamp (Champ) Clark
<em>James Beauchamp (Champ) Clark</em>/tiles/non-collection/C/Clark.xml
Champ Clark’s Speaker portrait by Boris Gordon was purchased by the Clerk of the House in 1919. This was the artist’s first commission for the U.S. government. He had emigrated from Switzerland in 1907, and later enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in World War I. After his military service, he settled in Washington, D.C., and established himself as a portrait artist. The House ultimately acquired 10 portraits by Gordon.
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Frederick Huntington Gillett
<em>Frederick Huntington Gillett</em>/tiles/non-collection/G/Gillett.xml
The House purchased Edmund Tarbell’s portrait of Speaker Frederick Gillett in 1925, five years after its completion. Gillett chose Edmund Tarbell at least in part based on the fast that artist hailed from his home state of Massachusetts. Tarbell also had his excellent reputation to recommend him. Well-established and successful, Tarbell, along with Julien Alden Weir, Thomas Dewing, and Frederick Twactman, laid the base for an academy of American impressionism in the late 19th century.
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Nicholas Longworth
<em>Nicholas Longworth</em>/tiles/non-collection/L/Longworth.xml
In 1930, Nicholas Longworth commissioned three portraits from Baron Robert Doblhoff, including his Speaker portrait. Internationally known as a portrait painter, and a leading artist in Vienna, Baron Doblhoff was remarked upon for his striking likenesses as well as the elegance of his style. He painted portraits for numerous European aristocrats and members of the American upper classes.
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John Nance Garner
<em>John Nance Garner</em>/tiles/non-collection/G/Garner.xml
Seymour Stone’s three-quarter length portrait of John Nance Garner is the second commemoration of Garner's Speakership. The first, by Boris Gordon, had been completed in 1933, but this work proved unsatisfactory and a resolution to exchange the portraits was passed on February 6, 1940. Seymour Stone was born in Poland, but relocated to Paris to study at Académie Julien. Later, he moved to New York to continue training at the Art Students League. He settled in New York and became known for his portraiture, as well as his zoological and figurative work.
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Henry Thomas Rainey
<em>Henry Thomas Rainey</em>/tiles/non-collection/R/Rainey.xml
The commission of Henry Rainey’s posthumous Speaker portrait took an unusual turn. Rather than choosing an artist, a competition was held. Of over 20 entries, four artists believed that they had the winning painting. The press blamed this predicament on the Speaker’s widow, who was said to be too kind-hearted to refuse any of the four finalists. The work by Howard Chandler Christy was finally chosen in 1936, two years after Rainey’s death. The Speaker, often remarked upon for his impressive height and voluminous white hair, is shown in his home library, wearing his trademark necktie.
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William Brockman Bankhead
<em>William Brockman Bankhead</em>/tiles/non-collection/B/Bankhead.xml
Earlier in his career, artist Howard Chandler Christy was best known for his illustration, particularly the fashionable, idealized “Christy Girl” of the 1910s. Later in his career, he turned increasingly to painting, and met with great success in pursuing commissions from the Capitol, including the 1937 portrait of Speaker William Bankhead. Despite the more sober subject, Christy’s work retains a painterly softness, giving Bankhead a glowing rosy complexion and softening his craggy features. Like Christy’s portrait of Speaker Henry Rainey, this work has a simple setting and a dark ground, emphasizing the illumination of the subject.
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Joseph William Martin, Jr.
<em>Joseph William Martin, Jr.</em>/tiles/non-collection/M/Martin.xml
Speaker Joseph Martin’s portrait was commissioned in 1948 and completed in 1959 by artist Boris Gordon. Martin reportedly was not fond of the likeness, though it hung in his office from 1959 until the unveiling in 1967. Boris Gordon’s first commission for the federal government was for Champ Clark’s Speaker portrait in 1919.
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John William McCormack
<em>John William McCormack</em>/tiles/non-collection/M/McCormack.xml
Victor Lallier’s portrait of Speaker John McCormack was unveiled on December 12, 1971, after McCormack’s retirement from public service. The Dallas-based artist was popular among Members of Congress, and the House ultimately acquired nine of his portraits. Early in his career, Lallier’s work was inspired by Italian Renaissance portraiture. The legacy of this influence can be seen in the intense, matte colors and the precise handling of paint evident in McCormack’s portrait.
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Carl Bert Albert
<em>Carl Bert Albert</em>/tiles/non-collection/A/Albert.xml
Printmaker, muralist, and portrait artist Charles Wilson completed Speaker Carl Albert’s portrait in 1973. It was exhibited for the first time on May 10, 1974, at the National Portrait Gallery. Like Albert, Wilson was an Oklahoman. He painted a second portrait of Albert for the Oklahoma State Capitol, as well as a series of portraits in its rotunda depicting Will Rogers, Sequoyah, and Senator Robert Kerr.
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Thomas Phillip (Tip) O'Neill, Jr.
<em>Thomas Phillip (Tip) O'Neill, Jr.</em>/tiles/non-collection/O/ONeill.xml
Speaker Tip O’Neill’s portrait by Robert Vickrey was unveiled on December 9, 1986. Vickrey, best known for his unnerving magical-realist paintings, was highly selective in the commissioned portraits he painted, and he said that of those few, “the only portrait [he] enjoyed painting was Tip O’Neill.” Upon meeting O’Neill in person, Vickrey said, “. . . yes he was substantial, but more than his enormous size, I found him utterly charming, invariably affable . . . ” This impression is reflected in the precisely rendered, imposing figure with a glint of good humor in the expression.
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James Claude Wright, Jr.
<em>James Claude Wright, Jr.</em>/tiles/non-collection/W/Wright.xml
Speaker Jim Wright’s portrait by prolific portrait artist Marshall Bouldin III was unveiled on July 10, 1989. Executed in Boudin’s painterly style, Wright is shown in a relatively informal manner. He casually turns away from the desk, marked as a work space by the disheveled papers and mug. A Texas longhorn figurine signifies Wright’s home state and is the type of personal signifier then coming into vogue in Congressional portraits
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Thomas Stephen Foley
<em>Thomas Stephen Foley</em>/tiles/non-collection/F/Foley.xml
Speaker Thomas Foley’s portrait by Washington, D.C., realist artist Frank Wright was unveiled in 1999. The portrait’s setting—the Speaker’s Ceremonial Office, a historic space in the Capitol—includes the view of the Jefferson building of the Library of Congress from the east-side window. In contrast to the trend of adding personal, contemporary touches to portraits, this work instead links the Speaker to the historical institution by including the ornate Victorian interior and Beaux-Arts architecture of the library.
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John Dennis Hastert
<em>John Dennis Hastert</em>/tiles/non-collection/H/Hastert.xml
The only Speaker portrait to be set in the Chamber, Dennis Hastert’s portrait by Laurel Boeck was unveiled in 2009. Hastert is posed in front of the Speaker’s chair on the rostrum, holding a gavel. The silver inkstand, which has been associated with Chamber since it came to the House around 1820 and is set on the rostrum before the beginning of proceedings, is next to the sitter’s left hand. Over his right shoulder is the 1841 mace—a symbol of authority derived from ancient Rome, also present whenever the House is in session.
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