Why a Republican Senator Presented President Biden a Civil War-Era Painting by a Black Landscape Artist as an Inauguration Gift
As part of his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden received a plethora of gifts from lawmakers today, including a large painting by Robert S. Duncanson that the couple loaned from the Smithsonian Museum and presented by the Republican Senator Roy Blunt from Missouri.
The 1859 work, entitled Landscape With Rainbow, was painted by Duncanson, a black artist, two years before the start of the Civil War, and shows a pastoral scene that is sparsely populated with cows and people. A rainbow above it symbolizes renewal and hope.
Blunt noted that the work was painted in such a way that America was a paradise despite the uncertainty of the days to come.
Such a painting is usually seen during lunch after a housewarming ceremony. But that nontraditional year, lunch was canceled when President Biden had a private meal and retired to his new offices to attend to appointments and other presidential affairs.
Duncanson was born in Cincinnati and, according to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which owns the work, was “the most famous African American painter during the Civil War”. With the help of abolitionists, he traveled to Europe and studied old master paintings to improve his craft.
The landscape picture shows a couple walking towards a small house surrounded by cattle “to reinforce the feeling that people are living in harmony with nature,” according to the museum.
Meanwhile, Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar presented Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris with a pair of engraved vases to commemorate the day. Biden’s vase shows a picture of the White House and Harris’ the US Capitol.
“The gifts represent the hope and confidence that the American people have placed in you to help our country move forward,” said Klobuchar.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell presented Biden with flags that waved over the Capitol.
Additional coverage from Katie Rothstein.
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