Matthew Wilson
unknown place made
Origin Date:
oil, board
overall: 27 1/2 in x 24 1/2 in
Item ID:
Holding Institution:
Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, courtesy of the Indiana State Museum
Available for Viewing:
Fine Art


This oval portrait of Abraham Lincoln features the subject seated with his body facing the left and his head turned toward the viewer. Lincoln is depicted with green eyes, brown hair and a beard. He wears a black suit with black vest and black bow tie. The background is a wash of green with a red curtain swag to the right. The artist signed the painting on the lower right, "Matthew Wilson, April 1865." This is the last painting of Lincoln executed from life. This portrait was commissioned by and for Gideon Welles, President Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy, and remained in his family after his death. Born in London, England in 1814, Matthew Wilson became a painter of portraits, especially of miniatures. He emigrated to the United States in 1832 and lived in Philadelphia where he was a student of Henry Inman, but he returned to Europe to study with Edouart Dubufe in Paris in 1835. In addition to foreign travel, Wilson traveled widely in American including a visit to New Orleans in 1845 where he completed several portrait commissions. He was then commissioned by the legislature of Georgia to paint a copy of John Vanderlyn's portrait of President Andrew Jackson in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1847, Wilson went to Baltimore, in the early 1850s, he was in Ohio, and from 1856 to 1860, was working in Boston but was living in New Bedford, Connecticut. In 1864, he settled in Brooklyn, but during the Civil War spent time in Washington DC painting portraits of well-known persons including Abraham Lincoln two weeks before the assassination. Wilson was elected as Associate of the National Academy in New York in 1843. He died in Brooklyn on February 23, 1892. See ID numbers 71.2009.081.0466, .0962, and 0963, for lithographs done by L. Prang from this original painting. For more information on this painting, see "Lincoln Lore" number 1700, October, 1979, pages 1-2. Go to the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection website to see a signed photograph of the artist, Matthew Wilson, ID number LN-1396. Part of The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, courtesy of the Indiana State Museum