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Hampton artist donates copy of commissioned Lincoln portrait

Friday, June 15, 2001

By Marylynne Pitz, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Abe, the man credited with saving the Union, is coming to city hall.

Honest.

John Buxton, the Hampton artist who was commissioned to paint a life-size portrait of Abraham Lincoln for the new National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, is donating a copy of that original to the city of Pittsburgh and the citizens of Allegheny County.

Artist John Buxton has donated a copy of his life-size portrait of Abraham Lincoln, seen in the background, to the city and county. The painting will be hung at the City-County Building. (Franka Bruns, Post-Gazette)

The copy, one of only 20 limited editions reproduced on canvas, is 84 inches tall and 40 inches wide without its frame.

City officials plan to hang it in front of the glass arches at the back of the City-County Building's mezzanine. If that plan works, Abe will tower over visitors to the building.

Nancy Burns, manager of the city's parks office of special programs and community affairs, said a staff member of The Carnegie will light the painting.

"It is so large that we are considering something very out of the ordinary for its installation. It's larger than our granite walls. So, we're looking at a very creative installation on the rear of the building's mezzanine glass arches," Burns said.

City officials plan to hold a special dedication ceremony, possibly around the Fourth of July holiday, Burns added.

Buxton wrote a beautiful letter to Mayor Tom Murphy when he donated the picture, Burns said.

The mayor, Burns said, "is a Civil War buff as I am and took immediately to John Buxton's most generous offer."

Nancy Eisaman, owner of Writings on the Wall, a Westmoreland County gallery in Irwin that sells Buxton's work, is framing the print. The picture's ornate gold frame is 3 1/2 inches wide with a black satin liner, Eisaman said, and may be finished next week.

"It's pretty impressive. John just wanted to give something to the city because he lives here," Eisaman said.

The original, Eisaman said, dominates a gallery in the National Civil War Museum.

"It just lit up the whole hall that it's in. You walk in there and it overwhelms you," Eisaman said.

Buxton, 62, of Hampton, is a native of Oxford, N.C.

He has painted Laurel Ridge, Fort Necessity and Fort Ligonier. He is also known for painting historically accurate 18th-century frontier scenes of Western Pennsylvania.

Buxton's publisher gave him one of the 20 copies of the original. Initially, Buxton tried to give it to his favorite boyhood haunt, the library in Oxford, N.C.

But neither the Oxford library nor the community's historical society was interested in making a place for the picture.

Buxton said Bobby Bradsher, the town mayor and one of Buxton's schoolmates, told him, "The only place we'd like to hang Lincoln is from the nearest tree."

Like many Southern towns, Buxton said, Oxford, "has a big Confederate statue in the middle of town that everybody drives around. If I'd have done Robert E. Lee, everything would have been fine."

So, Buxton said, "Since my birth town turned it down, I'm giving it to my hometown," adding that he has lived in Pittsburgh since 1963.Those who attended graduation ceremonies at Hampton High School have already seen the picture. The Hampton Alliance, a local charity, bought one of the 20 limited edition prints and donated it to the school.



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