It was the commission of a lifetime—an invitation from the president himself to visit his vacation home for a long weekend to paint a life-sized portrait that would be displayed for all to see. It wasn’t the first time Elizabeth Shoumatoff had raised her brush to capture the likeness of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but it would be the most prestigious.
On the afternoon of April 12, Roosevelt said, “I have a terrific pain in the back of my head.” He then slumped forward in his chair, unconscious, and was carried into his bedroom. The president’s attending cardiologist, Dr. Howard Bruenn, diagnosed the medical emergency as a massive cerebral hemorrhage.At 3:35 p.m. that day, Roosevelt died.
The Unfinished Portrait is a watercolor of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt by Elizabeth Shoumatoff.
Shoumatoff was commissioned to paint a portrait of President Roosevelt and started her work around noon on April 12, 1945. At lunch, Roosevelt complained of a headache and subsequently collapsed.
Shoumatoff never finished the portrait, but she later painted a new, largely identical one, based on memory.
It was stored for years in a warehouse in New York until the commission at Warm Springs approached the artist, asking her to donate it to the museum they were creating in Roosevelt’s country home.
The Unfinished Portrait hangs at Roosevelt’s retreat, the Little White House, in Warm Springs, Georgia, and its finished counterpart beside it. One difference is that the tie that was red in the original is now blue in the finished painting.
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