President: John Quincy Adams
- Years active: 1825-1829
Sitting afront red curtains on a rose velvet chair, the sixth U.S. President John Quincy Adams, son to the second U.S. President John Adams, had his portrait completed before becoming America’s leader. He was the only president to become a member of the House of Representatives after he served as commander-in-chief, later collapsing on the Capitol floor from a stroke in 1848 while arguing against the Mexican-American War. He died two days later. The White House portrait was composed in 1818 by George Peter Alexander Healy, a reputable portraitist of the time.
First Lady: Louisa Adams
- Years active: 1825–1829
The official White House portrait of the first foreign-born First Lady Louisa Adams was gifted to the historic collection by her great-great grandson. It was accepted by First Lady Pat Nixon when she governed the house in 1971. The oil painting completed by portraitist Gilbert Stuart, famous for other presidential portraits, is on a 25 x 35-inch canvas.
President: Andrew Jackson
- Years active: 1829–1837
The portrait of the seventh U.S. President Andrew Jackson hangs in the Oval Office now, placed there by historian Walter Russell. Portraitist Ralph E. W. Earl, who studied under famed political painter John Trumball, painted the noble likeness of President Jackson in 1835. The artist and the muse would become lifelong friends, with Earl painting family portraits as far back as 1817 in Tennessee, and eventually marrying one of President Jackson and First Lady Rachel’s nieces.
First Lady: Rachel Jackson
- Years active: N/A
First Lady Rachel Jackson became a target of her husband's political rivals, specifically President John Quincy Adams, who used her accidental bigamy as a charge of adultery against her and President Andrew Jackson. Due to the scandal, the first lady fell into depression. She lost a son to illness, and eventually died of a heart attack that President Jackson would later blame on political rivals. Though no artist name accompanies the official White House portrait of the First Lady Rachel, her niece’s husband, Ralph E.W. Earl, painted President Jackson’s official portrait and many other family pictures.
Hostess: Emily Donelson
- Years active: 1829–1836
Defacto First Lady and White House Hostess Emily Donelson was the niece of Rachel Donelson Jackson, the late wife of President Andrew Jackson. Not only did she govern the White House from 1829–1834 at the age of 21, but she also mothered four children, three of which she bore in the Washington estate. Married to A.J. Donelson, the president’s private secretary, she died in 1836, passing off her familial duty to Sarah Yorke Jackson, wife of the president’s adopted nephew, after the U.S. scandal known as the “Petticoat Affair” or “Peggy Eaton Affair.”
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President: Martin Van Buren
- Years active: 1837–1841
President Martin Van Buren’s official White House portrait, composed 17 years after he left the White House, was painted by George Peter Alexander Healy, whom the White House Historical Association calls “one of the most popular and prolific portraitists of the mid-nineteenth century.” The self-taught painter, who illustrated President Abraham Lincoln in 1860, painted a 62 ½ x 47 ⅜-inch oil on canvas of the president standing stoically aside a table in 1858, two years after Healy migrated to America from Europe.
First Lady: Hannah Van Buren
- Years active: N/A
First Lady Hannah Van Buren was a close cousin to her husband, President Martin Van Buren, growing up together in New York State; however, she never stepped foot in the White House, dying 18 years before he was elected. Little is known about First Lady Hannah, according to the White House Historical Association, which notes she was called “an ornament of Christian faith.” Her stately position would be filled by White House Hostess Angelica Van Buren, who married one of the president’s four sons after being introduced to him by Dolley Madison.
Hostess: Angelica Van Buren
- Years active: 1838–1841
As a daughter-in-law to President Martin Van Buren, Hostess Angela Van Buren became the de facto first lady since the leader’s wife died almost two decades before he was elected. Andrew Van Buren, the president’s son, acted as his private secretary, while his well-educated South Carolinian wife, who was the youngest White House hostess, kept the Washington estate in order. She even bolstered President Van Buren’s reputation with her Southern belle charm and beauty depicted in the light and dark illustration of her, adorned in feathers and pearls.
President: William Henry Harrison
- Years active: 1841
President William Henry Harrison had his official White House portrait painted years before his election by James Read Lambdin, a famous Pennsylvania-born portraitist, who also composed the likeness of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, and James A. Garfield. After being commissioned to paint influential political leaders, Lamdin would go onto become the director for the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and a professor. The 30 x 25-inch oil on canvas depicts the military veteran and president, who died of pneumonia after only 32 days in office, making him the shortest-serving U.S. leader.
First Lady: Anna Harrison
- Years active: 1841
Ironically, First Lady Anna Harrison objected to the election of her husband, President William Harrison, who died only 31 days after assuming office. The first lady, who was detained in North Bend, Ohio, due to illness herself, would not even have enough time to move to the Washington estate before her husband's death. Her official White House painting, like that of her husband, is unnamed, and according to The National First Ladies Library, “although only one portrait of her is extant, others may have been made.”
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