Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of General Dwight D Eisenhower (1890 - 1969) 1951

Frank O. Salisbury RA (1872-1964)

Portrait of General Dwight D Eisenhower (1890 - 1969), Frank O. Salisbury RA
Chalk on paper
20th Century
13 3/8 x 14 7/8 inches 46.5 x 37.4 cm 14 3/8 x 13 3/8 inches 46.5 x 37.4 cm
Nigel Frank O. Salisbury: Painter Laureate 1st Books 2003 pp.124, 170, 344
To view political portraits for sale, please go to www.philipmould.com.

This direct and compelling likeness, taken in only fifty minutes, as the artist’s inscription attests, shows that even at the age of seventy-seven, Salisbury had lost neither his powers of observation nor the rapid energy of his technique. Eisenhower was the fifth American President to be painted by Salisbury, although the commission did not initially relate to a presidential portrait. The artist had been approached to paint a depiction of the dedication of the American Roll of Honour in St Paul’s Cathedral on July 4th 1951 before an august audience of British and American dignitaries that included members of the Royal Family. Salisbury involved himself intimately in this project, even using his American and British contacts to influence aspects of the ceremony to enhance its pictorial effect. Ever the master of pageantry, Salisbury had wanted General Eisenhower dramatically to unveil the Roll of Honour covered by the American flag, and had prevailed on the Home Office to permit the American flag to be displayed in the Cathedral.

Only the strict protocol that the flag may not touch the ground prevented him from having his coup de theatre in which the General alone would sweep aside the flag and reveal the Roll of Honour. Salisbury was forced to depict a more static episode, in which he shows the Dean of St Paul’s reading the dedication of the Roll, whilst in the foreground General Eisenhower stands prominently to attention. Salisbury had initially been refused a life sitting from the General, since he had little free time left by the negotiations in Paris that would lead to the establishment of NATO, and so he had made a number of drawings – which he felt unsatisfactory – of the proceedings from a vantage point in the Cathedral. His attitude to such setbacks was always bullish, however, and as he relates in his draft autobiography, he attempted to use his own powers of persuasion to secure a sitting: “Being most disturbed by this difficulty that evening, I wrote a letter to the General and despatched it by air mail. On Monday morning I received a telephone message from Paris saying the General would give me an hour at Sarum Chase in the afternoon after the Lord Mayor’s luncheon at the Mansion House…Before the arrival police were on duty at each entrance of Sarum Chase and, duly preceded by outrider police on motor-bikes and a Scotland Yard car, the distinguished visitor arrived.”1 Salisbury completed this magnificent sketch of the General in
fifty minutes, as he proudly records in his inscription. The completed painting was intended for presentation to the Pentagon, but since Eisenhower was at that date a presidential candidate for the 1952 election it was felt inappropriate to send the painting to Washington until the result was determined. In the interim the painting hung in St Paul’s Cathedral. By the time that the painting reached its intended destination in the Pentagon outside the office of the Secretary for Defence – Eisenhower had become the thirty-fourth President of the United States, an office he held from 1953 through a second election victory until 1961. The painting is currently on loan to the Dwight D Eisenhower Library, Abilene, Kansas.

1. Frank O. Salisbury Preliminary notes and manuscripts for Sarum Chase.p214
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.