As the country recovered from the Civil War, Lincoln’s achievements—emancipating the slaves and restoring the Union—became central to his growing image as the savior of the country. Many supporters in the North and former slaves placed images of the slain president in their homes. Sculpture played a particularly prominent role in commemorations of Lincoln. Commissioning a large statue of him was a sign of civic pride, and a way of giving him a presence in important town sites. Many of these civic commemorations still exist and have continued to shape ideas of Lincoln as a historical figure of mythical proportion. One of the finest monuments to Lincoln is the 1887 Abraham Lincoln: The Man (The Standing Lincoln), in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. The pensive depiction of Lincoln was made by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and the architectural setting was designed by Stanford White, a well-known architect.
When the nation celebrated the one-hundredth anniversary of Lincoln’s birth in 1909, another period of extensive image-making began. Saint-Gaudens collaborated again with architect Stanford White to create Abraham Lincoln, Head of State (Seated Lincoln), in Chicago’s Grant Park. In 1914 sculptor Daniel Chester French was commissioned to create a monumental sculpture of President Lincoln for a memorial on the National Mall. The small “table top” sculpture, Abraham Lincoln, is based on a model for French’s final famous design.
Since his presidency, Lincoln has continued to fascinate Americans. Pictures and sculptures of him are still being made today. Artists have used depictions of Lincoln to invoke his spirit, particularly during tumultuous times in U.S. history, like the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, when the freedoms that he represented were once again called into question. Additional images of Lincoln, including several produced during the Civil Rights era, can be found in other exhibits on this website, such as Emancipation and the Meaning of Freedom and Remembering the War .