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Every US president's and first lady's official portraits

  • Hostess: Jane Harrison

    - Years active: 1841

    De facto First Lady Jane Harrison served with President William Harrison, her father-in-law, the first month of his presidency until he died on day 31. Since the president’s wife, Anna, was too ill to travel to Washington with him, Hostess Jane filled in for her until she could make the journey that she would never wind up taking. Little is known of Hostess Jane and the official White House portrait, which depicts her in a black-and-white dress covered with a red shawl.

  • President: John Tyler

    - Years active: 1841–1845

    Like many official White House paintings, the portrait of the 10th U.S. President John Tyler was composed in 1859 long after he was the commander-in-chief. Famed Boston-born painter George Peter Alexander Healy produced the 62 x 47 ⅛-inch oil on canvas a couple of years after migrating to America from Europe. During his tenure as a portraitist, Healy was also commissioned to paint religious icons and royalty, such as Pope Pius IX and Queen Elizabeth of Romania.

  • First Lady: Letitia Tyler

    - Years active: 1841–1842

    First Lady Letitia Tyler would die in the White House in 1842, making her the first of three women with this sad distinction, including First Lady Caroline Harrison in 1892 and First Lady Ellen Wilson in 1914. The White House Historical Association credits the official “heirloom” White House portrait to John Tyler Griffin, the great-great-grandson to the president and his wife. Due to her poor health, First Lady Letitia was often confined to a second floor in the Washington estate, with her daughter-in-law Priscilla assuming many hostess duties of the White House.

  • First Lady: Julia Tyler

    - Years active: 1844–1845

    The second wife of President John Tyler, whom he married after the death of his first wife, First Lady Julia, was painted by portraitist Francesco Anelli between 1846 and 1848, when she was in her mid-20s. Descending from a wealthy New York family and called “The Rose of Long Island,” First Lady Julia would become a widow to President John Tyler in 1863, which was a severe blow to her, according to the White House Historical Association. Along with the portrait of the first lady, Italian-American artist Anelli is famed for his painting “The End of World,” which was lost and never found.

  • President: James K. Polk

    - Years active: 1845–1849

    President James K. Polk’s official White House portrait by George Peter Alexander Healy on a 62 ½ x 47 ⅛ canvas captures the 11th U.S. president staring off stoically, dressed in black with clasped hands. It was painted nine years after his death in 1858. Healy was a prolific painter of the time, who composed other U.S. presidents including Martin Van Buren and Abraham Lincoln. He attributed his artistic talent to his grandmother, whom he grew up watching create pictures of her journey in the West Indian Islands. He was 16 when he picked up his first paintbrush.

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  • First Lady: Sarah Polk

    - Years active: 1845–1849

    Esteemed for her formal education and political savvy, First Lady Sarah Polk was very involved in her husband President James K. Polk’s administration. The official White House portrait of First Lady Sarah by artist George Dury was painted in 1883 from an 1846 depiction of her by George Peter Alexander Healy, who also painted President Polk’s portait. Migrating from the Kingdom of Bavaria, Dury would settle down in Tennessee and eventually paint Robert E. Lee and President Andrew Johnson.

  • President: Zachary Taylor

    - Years active: 1849–1850

    President Zachary Taylor’s official White House portrait was painted one year before he entered office in 1858 by artist Joseph H. Bush. The oil on canvas depicts the president clad in military uniform, signifying his many battle victories, including the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War, which branded him an American hero. President Taylor’s untimely death two years into his administration promoted Vice President Millard Fillmore to commander-in-chief.

  • First Lady: Margaret Taylor

    - Years active: 1849–1850

    While “no certain likeness” of First Lady Margaret Taylor exists, the 1903 sketch of her credited to the Bureau of National Literature and Art acts as the official White House portrait, according to White House Historical Association. Avoiding all public and political occasions, First Lady Taylor shared her time with friends, family, and church members, leaving White House hostess duties to her youngest daughter Mary Elizabeth Taylor Bliss; she would serve in the Washington estate for two years before her father’s sudden death.

  • President: Millard Fillmore

    - Years active: 1850–1853

    U.S. President Millard Fillmore was just another powerful political leader painted by portraitist George Peter Alexander Healy. The 94 ⅛ x 58-inch oil work depicts President Fillmore in 1857, four years after the former vice president stepped in as commander-in-chief for President Zachary Taylor, who died in office a year into his term. Healy portrayed President Fillmore standing sternly with his hand on his hip in front of an elegant set of curtains and chair, a familiar backdrop used by the portraitist.

  • First Lady: Abigail Powers Fillmore

    - Years active: 1850–1853

    The unknown artist for First Lady Abigail Powers Filmore’s official White House portrait depicted the wife of the 13th president with long curls and a white bonnet. First Lady Abigail, who in ill health continued to act as a teacher while serving in the White House, bestowed many of her official duties to her daughter Mary Abigail. Meanwhile, she helped create the White House library in the Yellow Oval Room, before dying during the last year of her husband’s term in 1853 of pneumonia.

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