Eyewitness Painting of Lincoln's Assassination Is Being Restored

Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

On April 14, 1865, revelers flooded the streets of Washington D.C. to celebrate the end of the Civil War. But what began as a joyful occasion turned to tragedy when Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth while attending a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater. More than a century later, one man's view of the event will finally be available to public, according to The Washington Post.

German immigrant Carl Bersch was spending a relaxing evening out on his balcony, painting scenes of the celebrations, when Lincoln was carried out of the theater across the street. As chaos erupted before him, Bersch started sketching the scene. The resulting work, “Lincoln Borne By Loving Hands,” is the only known eyewitness painting of Lincoln’s assassination.

But, perhaps due to its tragic subject matter, the painting has rarely been put on public display. Over the years, it has collected dust and dirt, its colors have faded, and details have blurred. Now, the National Park Service is having the painting cleaned and restored for the first time in 35 years in order to put it on display in the Ford’s Theatre complex.

As the painting is cleaned, new details are emerging. Art conservator Tamara Luzeckyj told The Washington Post that the crowd is coming into focus: she’s found a mustachioed policeman, an embracing couple, and most distressingly, the face of a woman staring out of the painting in horror. 

But, ultimately, the focus of the painting is the American flag. David L. Olin, chief conservator at the conservation lab told The Washington Post, “The focal point is the entire image centered on the flag… I think he’s recorded more than just Lincoln’s death. He’s recording the state of the nation at the time.” 

[h/t: The Washington Post]