Historical Highlights

The House Portrait of Melvin Price of Illinois

February 16, 1977
The House Portrait of Melvin Price of Illinois Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Representative Melvin Price of Illinois chaired both the Committee on Armed Services and the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy.
On this date, the House of Representatives unveiled a portrait of Armed Services Committee Chairman Melvin Price of Illinois. Price, a corporal in the United States Army during World War II, served on the committee for more than 40 years, always as a strong advocate of defense spending. Portrait artist Robert Templeton also served in the army and worked as a photographer and artist for the military newspaper, The Stars and Stripes. Templeton showed Chairman Price in his Washington office, with his extensive library in the background. In earlier decades, most portraits were presented with a plain background in a neutral color. As the 20th century came to a close, chairmen were more often depicted with the commonplace tools of their authority: books, gavels, desks, and the committee rostrum. Typical of chairman portraits in this transitional period, this painting combined details of a specific setting—Price’s library—with the vagueness of an indeterminate background. The chairman wears a blue suit, which is unusual for such images, buttoned, as he sits in a substantial leather chair. His red-and-blue tie and white shirt provide a brightly-colored spot against an otherwise subdued palette. First elected to the House in 1944, Price initially served on the Committee on Military Affairs. In 1947, that panel was folded into the newly created Armed Services Committee, where Price remained for the rest of his career. Wielding the gavel for a decade, Price lost his chairmanship to Les Aspin of Wisconsin in 1985. Critics feared the 80-year-old Price could not provide strong oversight of President Ronald Reagan’s high-priced defense projects. For more than a century, the House of Representatives has collected portraits of the men and women who lead its committees. These images, a number of them produced by major American artists, provide a vital visual record of House history.

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