Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Gardner

Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Gardner / Albumen silver print, 1865 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

One Life: The Mask of Lincoln

November 7, 2008 - July 5, 2009

No American has had more written or said about him than Abraham Lincoln. To both his contemporaries and posterity, Lincoln has been an endless subject of mystery and fascination. "One Life: The Mask of Lincoln" examined how Lincoln used the new art of photography to convey his image to Americans, letting them see in him what they most desired. The National Portrait Gallery commemorated the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth with this "One Life" exhibition that drew on the Portrait Gallery's extensive collection of Lincoln portraits, a collection that charts Lincoln's passage from a fresh-faced Illinois congressman to his grizzled isolation as president. The exhibition provided many faces of Lincoln for the public to ponder. It was one of the rare times that the original cracked-plate portrait of Lincoln by Alexander Gardner was displayed (in order to preserve the original, most often a facsimile of the photograph is on view).

David Ward, historian, was the exhibition curator.