Army Portraits

The Army has long been interested in pictorial representation of its top officials- the senior civilian and the senior officer. In the early 1870s Secretary of War William Worth Belknap began the tradition of engaging prominent artists to paint the individual portraits of the departmental secretaries to record the line of succession. Since then, the secretarial portrait collection has been carefully nurtured and continues today. The portraits are reproduced in color in the author's companion volume Secretaries of War and Secretaries of the Army: Portraits and Biographical Sketches, published and periodically updated by the U.S. Army Center of Military History, most recently in 2003. A number of the portraits are on permanent exhibit in the Secretarial Portrait Gallery at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Due in part to the shifting nature of the senior officer position in the period from 1775 to 1903, the portraits of the Army's senior officers are not as complete as that of its senior civilians. Although the Army has portraits of a few of its early commanders, they were acquired, in many instances, for reasons other than the individual's senior role in the uniformed line of succession. Thus, to represent the senior officers of the first 128 years of Army history, reproductions of suitable portraits were located and obtained from other organizations, galleries, institutions, and individuals. Each is acknowledged in the respective brief accounts on the artists that accompany the portraits and biographical sketches.

Unlike the early years, the Army has a formal collection of chief of staff portraits extending from the inception of that title and office in 1903 to the present. The Chiefs of Staff Portrait Gallery, also at the Pentagon, was made possible through the generosity of former Secretary of the Army and Mrs. Robert T. Stevens, whose substantial gift enabled the Center of Military History to commission contemporary artists to execute the portraits of the officers of the modern period.

The portrait element of the book thus represents and blends the work of some of America's most noted and accomplished artists of the past-William Cogswell, Daniel Huntington, John Wesley Jarvis, Charles Willson Peale, James Peale, and Thomas Sully-with that of established and gifted contemporary portraitists like John Edward Bannon, Joyce Ballantyne Brand, Cedric Baldwin Egeli, Everett Raymond Kinstler, John Boyd Martin, Margaret Holland Sargent, and Christine Conniff Sheahan.


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Last updated 24 February 2006