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FDR, Portrait in a Minute

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Published on Sep 18, 2012

The NPG's Warren Perry discusses a 1945 portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt, by artist Douglas Chandor. This portrait in on view in the NPG's exhibition "America's Presidents" on the second floor.

When Franklin Roosevelt began serving in New York's state legislature in 1911, some observers declared him ill-suited to the rough realities of politics. But Roosevelt thrived on those realities; some two decades later, he was advancing from the New York governorship to the presidency.

Taking office against the bleak backdrop of the Great Depression, Roosevelt responded quickly to this economic disaster with a host of regulatory and welfare measures that redefined the government's role in American life. Among conservatives, the new federal involvement in matters traditionally left to the private sector was a betrayal of America's ideals. But in other quarters, Roosevelt's activism inspired an unwavering popularity that led to his election to an unprecedented four terms.

When Roosevelt sat for this portrait in 1945, his presidential concerns had long since shifted to guiding the nation through World War II. This likeness is a study for a larger painting-a sketch of which appears at the lower left-commemorating Roosevelt's meeting with wartime Allied leaders Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin at Yalta.

Filmed at NPG, August 22, 2012.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, study for unexecuted painting, The Big Three at Yalta / Douglas Granville Chandor / Oil on canvas, 1945 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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