Portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt

Artist: Gari Melchers (1860-1932)
Historical period(s)
Oil on canvas
H x W (overall): 214.4 x 112.5 cm (84 7/16 x 44 5/16 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 09: Freer’s Global Network

Oil painting

portrait, president, United States

From 1908 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Gari Melchers on March 19, 1908 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See List, American Paintings Other than by Whistler, A, pg. 2, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Gari Melchers (C.L. Freer source) 1860-1932


In 1904, Charles Lang Freer offered the United States his collections of Asian and American art and funds for a museum to house them.  Because of restrictions he placed on the gift, the Smithsonian Institution hesitated to accept it until President Theodore Roosevelt intervened. As a sign of his appreciation, Freer commissioned Gari Melchers, a native of Detroit, to paint this portrait of the president.  Melchers was afraid his subject would not find time to pose as long as needed for the masterpiece that Freer had in mind, and confided to his wife, "This painting the President is rather anxious business."  But when the work was finished, it was instantly declared a great success.  Roosevelt himself considered the portrait the best that had ever been done, and Freer predicted that it would always be regarded as the one that truly captured the "dignity, force and character" of the man.  "Art is a language," he wrote to Melchers, "and your portrait will talk to the people through coming centuries."

Published References
  • Royal Cortissoz. Roosevelt and the Fine Arts: His Love of Life and Of a High Standard. New York, June 1, 1919. B10.
  • , John Caldwell, Oswaldo Rodriguez Roque, Dale T. Johnson, Doreen Bolger Burke, Natalie Spassky, Linda Bantel. American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 3 vols., New York. vol. 3: p. 379.
  • Gari Melchers, Henriette Lewis-Hind. Gari Melchers, Painter. New York. pl. 33.
  • Christian Brinton. Gari Melchers's Portrait of President Roosevelt. vol. 76 New York, July 1908. frontispiece, p. 477.
  • Burns A. Stubbs. Paintings, Pastels, Drawings, Prints, and Copper Plates by and Attributed to American and European Artists, Together with a List of Original Whistleriana, in the Freer Gallery of Art. vol. 1, no. 2, 2nd ed. Washington, 1967. pl. 5.
  • Konigliche Akademie der Kunste. Ausstellung amerikanischer Kunst, Marz-April 1910: zweite revidierte Auflage. Berlin. p. 3.
  • Buffalo Fine Arts Academy. Exhibition of a Retrospective Collection of Paintings Representative of the Life work of Gari Melchers, N.A. Exh. cat. Buffalo, February 2 - March 2, 1930. p. 5.
  • Buffalo Fine Arts Academy. Catalogue of the Sixth Annual Exhibition of Selected Paintings by American Artists. Exh. cat. Buffalo, May 12 - August 28, 1911. p. 10.
  • Gari Melchers, 1860-1932: American painter. Exh. cat. New York, September 26 - October 28, 1978. p. 13, fig. 6.
  • Joseph G. Dreiss, Richard S. Reid, William H. Gerdts. Gari Melchers, His Works in the Belmont Collection. Charlottesville. p. 42.
  • Superb Exhibition of Oriental and American Art held under the auspices of the University of Michigan and the Art Association of Ann Arbor: Academy Notes. Buffalo, July 1910. pp. 77-78.
  • Diane Lesko. Gari Melchers: A Retrospective Exhibition. Exh. cat. St. Petersburg, FL, March 11, 1990 - May 2, 1991. pp. 138-139, fig. 56.
  • Richard S. Reid. Gari Melchers, an American Artist in Virginia. vol. 28, no. 4 Richmond, Spring 1979. p. 161.
  • Thomas Lawton, Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. p. 190, fig. 128.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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