Thomas Sully
Andrew Jackson, 1845
Oil on canvas
20 3/8 x 17 1/4 in. (51.8 x 43.8 cm)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1942.8.34
Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington


7th President of the United States; Term of Office: 1829-1837
This refined but unfinished study of Andrew Jackson’s head and shoulders was used by the artist Thomas Sully for a full-length portrait of the 7th president. Sully painted both portraits in 1845, the year the former president died. Jackson’s humble beginnings on the frontier, along with his quick temper, personal scandals, and self-promoted persona as a political outsider in Washington, endeared him to working-class Anglo-Americans in the young nation, while separating him from the East Coast planter-class and urban elite. In the months immediately following his death, Sully’s depictions of a strong, blue-eyed, vigorous Jackson, with his now infamous shock of graying auburn hair, turned the deceased president into an American icon. This portrait intervenes in the cultural narrative of Jackson as a maverick, positioning the controversial politician as a sympathetic and courageous figure in the mode of Jefferson and Monroe at a moment when serious disagreements were erupting between the states over slavery and economic policies.


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