Description

    Franklin D. Roosevelt: Elizabeth Shoumatoff Print Signed as President.
    -January 30, 1944. 10.5" x 14".
    -Foxing, small tear right border, top left corner chipped, else very good.

    FDR signed this color lithograph on his 62nd birthday, "Franklin D. Roosevelt Jan. 30 1944". Below the image of the President in his Naval cape is the inscription "Copyright by E. S. / Color Collotype by A. Jaffe / Painted by Elizabeth Shoumatoff in April 1943". This was Shoumatoff's first painting of the President.


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    The extended description below was supplied by the consignor. We are making it available to our web bidders who are interested in more in-depth research and broader historical perspective. Please note that presentation (i.e. framing), lot divisions, and interpretations of condition and content may occasionally differ from our descriptions. Assertions of fact and subjective observations contained in this description represent the opinion of the consignor. These remarks have not been checked for accuracy by Heritage Auctions, and we assume no responsibility for their accuracy; they are offered purely to allow the bidder insight into the way the consignor has viewed the item(s) in question. No right of return or claim of lack of authenticity or provenance based upon this extended description will be granted.

     

    An extraordinarily rare Franklin D. Roosevelt signed color lithograph featuring a distinguished illustrated portrait of FDR. FDR signs this special lithograph in ink on his sixty-second birthday, during World War II: "Franklin D. Roosevelt Jan. 30 1944." The color lithograph of FDR in his Naval cape measures 10 ½ x 14" with its inscription below the portrait of FDR: "Copyright by E. S. / Color Collotype by A. Jaffe / Painted by Elizabeth Shoumatoff in April 1943." The color lithograph features a serious and determined-looking FDR in his Naval cape as Commander in Chief of the American armed forces in front of a cloudy sky. This color lithograph of FDR, signed and dated by the President on his birthday in 1944, was Madame Elizabeth Shoumatoff's first painting of the President. Shoumatoff's watercolor proof studies for her famous unfinished portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt, executed in FDR's final hours, the most storied and famous images of a sitting President in the history of the Presidency of the United States, are also part of this FDR Collection. An interesting relationship began when Shoumatoff painted FDR in April, 1943. Shoumatoff was FDR's sort of woman: well-born, worldly, attractive, pleasant and good humored, but for Shoumatoff, a Republican, Roosevelt was hardly a knight in shining armor. Prior to 1943, she only knew the public actor, the bane of the business class, whom Shoumatoff had been painting for over twenty years since her arrival in America as a refugee from Bolshevik terror. Her family of émigrés had all made it big in America. Her husband – before he drowned in a swimming accident in the late 1920s – had become an executive in the Sikorsky aviation company while her brother, himself a painter and a lepidopterist, became curator of the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. They blended easily into the social and political world of the conservative upper class, and it was while summering in the Catskills in the early 1920s, that Shoumatoff first rubbed elbows with America's leading capitalists, and began painting them and their families. She soon built herself quite a successful career painting the economic royalists – Fords, Fricks, Kodaks, Mellons, five whole generations of Firestones – and she no doubt heard many an anti-Roosevelt uttering out of the mouths of her subjects during sittings. She liked to keep her subjects animated, it kept their faces lively, and discussing that man in The White House was sure to bring color to corporate cheeks. So she was taken aback one day in 1943 when her friend and client Lucy Mercer Rutherford said to her, "You should really paint the President. He has such a remarkable face. There is no painting of him that gives his true expression. I think you could do a wonderful portrait, and he would be such an interesting person to paint! Would you do a portrait of him if it was arranged?" Aside from worrying whether FDR would sit for a rock-ribbed Republican, Shoumatoff was uneasy about the rumors she had heard – that Lucy had been FDR's mistress many years before. Would an artist commissioned by the President's former love really be allowed to paint the chief magistrate? "You know him then?" was Shoumatoff's first, anxious response. "Oh, very well," Lucy replied. "Tell me," Shoumatoff said, "is he sincere?" Very much, Lucy assured her. Sensing that Lucy would smooth the way, Shoumatoff overcame her hesitancy – Presidential commissions didn't come along every day, after all – and she agreed. Lucy called The White House and made the arrangements. Roosevelt would sit for two days, in two weeks time. "There was no backing out," Shoumatoff recalled thinking. "I was trapped into something I had neither wished for nor planned." When she arrived at The White House two weeks later and "saw his smile and the familiar voice, I knew that Lucy must have spoken well of me….He was very cheerful and perfectly unconcerned about the whole thing." Shoumatoff "perched rather uncomfortably" in a chair next to him and started to sketch. FDR began telling the story of an earlier sitting he gave to a Mexican artist, who posed him alongside a roaring fireplace – fireside chats was the theme – and "there I was," Roosevelt said, "sitting by a fireplace with two little cactus plants on the side for Mexican atmosphere, and the red glow of the fire reflecting on my face. All I could name it was Roosevelt in Hell!" That broke the ice. Shoumatoff then told her story of the devout painter who, after painting Pope Leo XIII, asked his subject to inscribe some appropriate scriptural phrase on the canvas. The pontiff, pausing for a moment at the likeness, chose, "It is I. Be not afraid." Shoumatoff hoped that would not be necessary in this case. They were soon fast friends, laughing and swapping stories-Shoumatoff's Russian background reminded FDR of the ingrate royalty he rescued from Europe, who then expected to live high on the hog, at government expense, in America. Had Shoumatoff ever heard the story of how Roosevelt once punched out a Prussian officer on a train to Berlin? He regaled her with the tale (Mother Roosevelt wanted the window open, Prussian wanted it closed, Franklin to the rescue). Shoumatoff – her political and personal anxieties long since fled – now felt free enough to joke about the President's clothes. Too bad his gray suit and blue tie were so dull. Dramatic clothing she wanted? The President knew just the thing and called for the famous Brooks Brothers Naval cape, a perfect addition, but now the time for the sitting was up. They resumed the following day, Shoumatoff so at ease that she forgot her identification, and was surprised to be stopped at The White House gate (Tully vouched her). She and FDR smoked and chatted. Somehow religion came up – Shoumatoff was an exceedingly devout Orthodox Christian – and Roosevelt delightedly told the story of how he had mercilessly teased Maxim Litvinoff about his atheism. The folds and details in the cape were requiring a lot of attention, and she begged the President for a third day's sitting. He agreed to cut his next day's lunch hour in half and Shoumatoff realized a stand-in could model the cape just as well, so White House Communications Director, William D. Simmons was volunteered to sit, freeing Shoumatoff to devote the third day exclusively to Roosevelt's face. Overall, Shoumatoff was pleased with the finished work. It was small, 10 x 12," at Roosevelt's request, and she had chosen to avoid the familiar image of the jaunty smile, thinking "an expression of earnest seriousness…more desirable." But she later agreed with the judgment of Bill Hassett, and others, that the first portrait was "too pretty." It was also too static, and missed something of the force and dynamism of Roosevelt's character. The playfulness and liveliness of the sittings had not quite made it onto the canvas. Others thought it too small, and Roosevelt agreed to someday commission a second, larger portrait from Shoumatoff, for The White House or Hyde Park. The President invited Shoumatoff and her brother Andrey to lunch at Hyde Park in July, and it was now Andrey's turn to lose his political and personal misgivings in the face of Roosevelt's disarming charm. The two men discovered a common interest in the occult. Andrey was struck by the bust of Nicholas Roerich, a famous Russian spiritualist, which he saw perched on Roosevelt's shelf. Long after the visit, Roosevelt and Andrey would exchange letters about Russian iconography. This is an amazingly rare signed lithograph by FDR, on his sixty-second birthday, January 30, 1944, while World War II raged across the globe.



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    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    7th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
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