White House Displays Acclaimed Paintings

The visitors center is displaying Peter Waddell acclaimed series of paintings.

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Imagine the difficulty of this assignment. Take an architectural painter, say from New Zealand, and ask him to depict the early days of the White House, including periods when there were no photos and few paintings made. Oh, and make sure every detail is historically accurate. Now, six years after taking the job, Peter Waddell has produced an acclaimed series of 14 paintings covering the 1792 construction to the 1902 renovation under Teddy Roosevelt. They’re on display at the White House Visitor Center through November 28 and accurate right down to the book titles on Abraham Lincoln’s desk. How? “One of the historians went to the Library of Congress and looked up his library records,” Waddell says. His task was to re-create scenes from the White House and nearby grounds to fill in the gaps of visual history. It required tons of research. “There just wasn’t much visual material to work with,” Waddell says. “It really has to be constructed from invoices and accounts. Luckily, they were great writers. And newspapermen who went to the White House wrote detailed and lyrical descriptions of what the rooms looked like, especially if they were newly decorated.”

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