(Kansas City, Missouri) - Almost 70 years after it was painted by a fellow Missouri native, a life-size portrait of Harry S. Truman is taking its place in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
To mark the new addition - and spotlight the museum and its mission of presenting the nation's history through portraiture - gallery Director Kim Sajet and Senior Historian David C. Ward visit the Library's Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St., on Wednesday, January 14, 2015, at 6:30 p.m.
Saget, who has overseen the National Portrait Gallery for almost two years, will unveil a reproduction of the newly acquired Truman portrait and outline plans for the gallery as it approaches its 50th anniversary in 2018. Ward will discuss the ways in which portraiture works as both an artistic statement and as a visual portal to past times and lives.
The original oil painting of Truman was purchased with support from Kansas City's William T. Kemper Foundation and will go on display in the National Portrait Gallery in 2015. The reproduction will hang permanently in the Library's Truman Forum.
Truman posed for the portrait in the Cabinet Room of the White House shortly after becoming president in 1945. The artist was Jay Wesley Jacobs, born in Carthage, Missouri, a little more than two hours south of Truman's hometown of Independence.
Life magazine featured the piece in a November 1945 edition, noting that "Truman himself likes the portrait, especially the eyes, but thinks it is too flattering. Mrs. Truman says she is crazy about it because it looks just like him."
The publication added, "The President did not commission the portrait. It is being paid for by an old friend and it was planned to give the finished painting to members of the Senate where Truman has always had a lot of friends and where, now, he needs friends more than ever."
Jacobs was one of the first artists to get Truman to sit for a portrait.
The painting now joins the National Portrait Gallery and its America's Presidents exhibition, the nation's only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House. The gallery has a unique mission among U.S. museums: to reveal biography and history through the portraits of the men and women who have had an impact on American society, from the country's origins to the present day.
Sajet has served as its director since April 2013. Formerly the president and CEO of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and senior vice president and deputy director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the oldest art museum and school in the country, she holds a master's degree in art history from Bryn Mawr College. She also earned both a master's degree in business administration and a bachelor's in art history from Melbourne University Business School in Australia.
Born in Nigeria, Sajet was raised in Australia and is a citizen of the Netherlands.
Ward joined the National Portrait Gallery as a historian in 1981 and was appointed senior historian in November 2013. He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Rochester and has graduate degrees from England's Warwick University and Yale University.
Their presentation is co-presented by the W.T. Kemper Foundation, Commerce Bank-Trustee.
A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. Admission is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407.