lincoln portrait Young Lincoln portrait

An Analytical Biography of a Great Mind- by Edward J. Kempf

preference for photographs of right side of face

The collected photographs of Lincoln published by Frederick Hill Meserve and Carl Sandburg (1944), and by Stefan Lorant (1952), show that in many of them he has a similar, serious, solemn, dignified, unsmiling but kindly, reposeful, mentally inactive facial expression. In a few, the face is so moody and depressed and unusually perplexed, and the eyestrain so marked, that many people doubt if they are authentic reproductions. Not until one examines the lines of the eyes, mouth and skin closely in such photographs is the identity fully established.

The differences in expression of the two sides of his face seem to have influenced Lincoln, or his photographers, to prefer the right side since most photographs were taken from the right quarter or profile. Only a few were taken from the left side or in front. Although a laugher, he tended to keep his mouth closed firmly, with more protrusion of the right side of the lower lip than the left. Even though Mrs. Lincoln often chided him for persisting in looking too solemn, he could not be persuaded to smile freely before the camera. Herndon (Hertz, 1938) said that from the moment Lincoln faced the camera his face would grow serious and sad.

Lincoln's face was completely shaven until, in his campaign for the presidency in 1860, he was persuaded by a young girl's suggestion to grow a beard. The numerous changes in the style of cutting his beard and hair indicate that he and his barbers or Mrs. Lincoln indulged in no little experimenting for satisfactory effects. His photographs show how they tried a number of different trimmings with one constant feature, namely, shaving of the upper lip and lower lip and upper half of the chin, while letting a beard grow on the lower half of the chin and throat and sides of his face. The coarse, black hair of his head was generally cut so as to remain unusually long, probably for reducing the prominence of his ears. He was self-conscious about his hair, and parted it on either side as he fancied, but it was soon disheveled by the nervous habit of running his fingers through it.

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