has always been driven
by a sense of adventure
and unconventional thinking.”
— Andre Geim
Playing off a 2005 Discovery Channel series in which voters selected the country’s leading figures, artist Jac Lahav creates his own unconventional presentation of The Great Americans. Exploring the tension between image and reputation, media fame and history, Lahav depicts larger-than-life American icons in unexpected ways. Although Samuel Adams’ name is equally well recognized as a popular beer, for decades the beer labels mistakenly featured a portrait of fellow Massachusetts patriot Paul Revere. The artist’s palette that Adams holds in Lahav’s portrait, with mixed and accumulated layers of paint, represents how changeable the image of a historical figure can be.
In his portrait of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Lahav incorporates the figure of Justice taken from a Raphael painting. Recognizing Bader as a female pioneer in the legal field, the portrait reflects pop culture’s embrace of “RBG,” the subject of two Hollywood movies.
As only one portrait was painted of frontiersman Daniel Boone during his lifetime, Lahav chose to model his own painting from a photograph of a Boone impersonator wearing the requisite racoon cap. The background is in keeping with Boone’s role in America’s expansion in the west.
Reflecting Florence Griswold’s story and personality, Lahav incorporates numerous elements of her life into her portrait, e.g., a packet ship captained by her father, one of the many cats she loved, and an image of the Griswold house that became synonymous with the Lyme Art Colony gathering place.
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Selections from The Great Americans: Portraits by Jac Lahav, Florence Griswold Museum — Photos by Mary O’Connor