National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Born Point Pleasant, Ohio
President Ulysses S. Grant had the good fortune to count one of the nation’s leading political cartoonists, Thomas Nast, among his friends. In part, Grant attributed his presidential victory in 1868 “to the pencil of Nast,” a staunch supporter of both Grant and the Republican Party. Nast developed a camaraderie with the president and the first family, as this watercolor drawing of Grant might suggest. By contrast, Nast had unleashed all of his satiric talents in criticizing the former administration of President Andrew Johnson for being too lenient toward the unreconstructed former Confederate states.
In hindsight, Nast’s drawing of Grant has become a caricature of his “armchair” presidency, one in which he relegated too much authority to untrustworthy subordinates, an interpretation that the artist never intended.