Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lloyd Ostendorf’s Thomas Jefferson

Lloyd Ostendorf was an artist, writer and collector of Lincoln photographs. He published a book on all the known photos of Lincoln, so he was well known to the historical community. He co-authored an article I featured here a few weeks ago, about an “unknown” 1856 painting of Lincoln, which he and fellow Lincoln historian James L. Swanson had written about in a 1990 article in American Heritage. You can read a short article about it here.

Ostendorf was also a commercial artist. When he died at age 79 he was described in a 2000 obituary by his family “as a self-employed commercial artist who created greeting cards, religious drawings and pencil art, but his signature work featured Lincoln.” Unmentioned in the Chicago Times obituary was Ostendorf’s longtime association with Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, a comic book published for Catholic school students.

Ostendorf wasn’t just a Lincoln artist. For instance, this six-page story, written by Helen Gillum and published in Treasure Chest in 1970, is about Thomas Jefferson. The Jefferson story omits the fact that Jefferson was a slave-holder (except to say in the last panel that he “granted his slaves their freedom at his death,”) or his longtime affair with his slave Sally Hemings, with whom he had children. It was done for young readers, but the vibrancy of Ostendorf’s work stands out, showing him to be a very talented artist, as well as important historian.

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