General Ulysses S. Grant

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General Ulysses S. Grant
John Antrobus
Oil on canvas
50 x 40.5 in.
Chicago Public Library
Grand Army of the Republic Collection, gift of J. Russell Jones
SPE GAR 72.250

General Grant’s victories at Fort Donelson, Vicksburg, and other battles elevated him to hero status. These conquests led the public to wonder what this famous general looked like. Newspapers were not yet able to print photographs, only engravings, and some of those made Grant unrecognizable. J. Russell Jones, a Grant supporter from Galena, Illinois, commissioned Chicago artist John Antrobus to paint Grant’s likeness—the first artist to draw Grant from life. Antrobus traveled to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where Grant was headquartered and made sketches of the general. Antrobus then made two paintings: this three-quarter length view and a full-length portrait. In the painting Grant’s posture reflects the same stance held by George Washington in an earlier painting and signifies the high value placed on Grant’s service. When Antrobus displayed the painting, it was reported that visitors crowded his studio for glimpses of the general. Lincoln saw the full-length portrait in Washington, D.C., shortly before promoting Grant to Lieutenant General, a rank previously only held by George Washington.

1. How would you describe Grant’s expression? What do you think Antrobus was trying to say about Grant in this portrait?

2. Note that Grant is holding a pair of binoculars, or field glasses as they were called at the time. Why do you suppose Antrobus depicted Grant holding these?

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