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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > The Alfred Whital Stern Collection

[Detail] Lincoln Centennial Association


A portrait is a painted or photographic likeness of a person. A good portrait not only captures the person’s appearance but also conveys something about his or her character. Lighting, the person’s pose and where his or her gaze is directed, props, clothing, and backgrounds are some of the ways in which a portraitist can convey character

The following are just some of the portraits of Abraham Lincoln presented in the collection:

More portraits can be found in the Portraits of Lincoln gallery or by conducting a Keyword search using the search term Lincoln portrait.

Closely examine several Lincoln portraits. Select both photographic and artistic renderings. Study how Lincoln was posed, where he was looking (at the camera or artist, off into the distance, at another object in the picture), which features were most dominant, the lighting used, and his facial expression. Study the background and any other objects shown in the pictures. Then answer the following questions.

  • What differences in the portraits are most significant to you? Why?
  • What character traits do the portraits convey about Lincoln? Is there a trait that you think all of the portraits illustrate? What differences do the portraits show?
  • Select a portrait and write a caption for it explaining why you think it is an excellent example of the art of portraiture.