Ralph Wolfe Cowan Large-Scale Oil Painting "President Lyndon Baines Johnson"
Ralph Wolfe Cowan (American, 1931 – 2018)
President Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1967
Oil painting on canvas wrapped over board
Signed to the lower left
Gallery label to the verso
Ralph Wolfe Cowan was born and raised in Virginia. Growing up in the midwest, his interest in painting and popular culture was strongly discouraged by his parents. Cowan would sneak away from watching Western movies with his brothers, opting instead for Technicolor musicals. After graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School, Cowan found portraiture to be an intermediary between his love for painting and celebrity, and moved to New York to attend the Manhattan Art Students League. Cowan halted his studies in 1950 to join the US Army, and returned to school in 1953. After graduation, Cowan’s reputation for portraiture grew amongst celebrities in New York City, and he was commissioned by the likes of Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor. His 1956 portrait of Grace Kelly caught the attention of Monaco’s royal family whose commissions brought Cowan’s work into the international political realm. Based primarily in Palm Beach with a studio in Las Vegas, Cowan spent his career traveling the world to paint celebrity and state portraiture including Elvis Presley, President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter, and President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines. He noted his work to be heavily influenced by Flemish Baroque artist Sir Anthony van Dyck whose notes on composition and posing Cowan translated into a style he called “romantic realism.”
By the time of his passing, Cowan was a member of the American Society Portrait Painters, American Portrait Society and Allied Artists Association. His life was the subject of the documentary The Last Old Master, and his portraits were reproduced for the covers of magazines like Vanity Fair. Cowan’s work can be found in the most notorious private collections, the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, and has been exhibited across the world including a hometown retrospective at the Portsmouth Community Arts Center.
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- painting examined with UV light; three 1.0" scratches to the saddle horn to the upper right; scattered slight hair and dust debris caught in the varnish; slight discoloration to the varnish; minor warping to the canvas to the upper left corner and along the upper sight edge; chips and cracks to the molding along the outer edges of the frame; minor abrasions and loss to the gilt along the outer edges of the frame.
- measures frame; sight measures 65.25" W x 47.25" H.