Re "Visual presidents," Opinion, Feb. 16
Great idea to compare the George Washington painting with the Barack Obama poster. Hugh Howard lost me, though, when he wrote that Gilbert Stuart's painting is a character study because it reveals Washington's "doubtful glance, watery eye and prim mouth" but criticized Shepard Fairey's Obama's poster as "empty of character and human content."
I have no idea what kind of character is revealed by a "watery eye." And what is a "prim mouth," really?
When I look at the Obama poster, I see a man who is listening with focused intensity, looking up in optimism and a little saddened (possibly by current events). These elements certainly reveal character -- and not through manipulation by the artist.
If you think about it, Washington, who had more than a dozen portraits painted because, as Howard writes, "the public wanted to see what manner of man served as chief executive," did more to manipulate the portrayal of his character than Obama did when his campaign "welcomed [the poster] as a key campaign image."