The only known eyewitness painting of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination is being restored by art conservation activists. The oil painting has been soiled by aging, dirt and grime.
The painting has been maintained by the National Park Service since 1978. It is titled “Lincoln Borne By Loving Hands”.
The painting was created by the German immigrant Carl Bersch, who lived nearby Ford’s Theatre. At the time, Bersch was sketching a victory parade celebrating the end of the Civil War.
However, the celebration was interrupted as President Lincoln was carried across the street while he lay bandaged and dying.
President Lincoln was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth during the evening of April 16, 1865.
Bersch wasted no time, immediately getting to work on painting the tragedy that unfolded right before his eyes.
A written account of the incident produced by Bersch was later recovered.
It read, “I had a clear view of the scene, above the heads of the crowd. I recognized the lengthy form of the President by the flickering light of the torches, and one large gas lamp post on the sidewalk. The tarrying at the curb and the slow, careful manner in which he was carried across the street, gave me ample time to make an accurate sketch of that particular scene. Altogether it was the most tragic and impressive scene I have ever witnessed.”
The painting represents an image of Lincoln that has been mostly forgotten by the public. Most Americans remember President Lincoln as the man who fought to ensure that everyone, regardless of the color of their skin, would have equal opportunities in the United States. The portrait of a frail, dying Lincoln is largely not remembered.
By restoring the painting, people will be able to recognize the horror that Americans experienced when their country’s leader was killed in the mid-1860s. The portrait shows the horrified faces of bystanders as they witnessed a legendary assassination take place.
Once the painting is restored, the National Park Service is planning to showcase it at the historic Ford’s Theatre.