Portraits are a timeless form of art. The oldest portraits date back to ancient Egypt. Over the years they were made for different reasons and in different formats.

The first portraits were made to protect the dead from evil spirits. This was done in Egypt in the famous pyramids and in certain parts of the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages, portraits were made to glorify the divine, to depict the spiritual. Until the 14th century, portraits were mainly functional.

The Renaissance brought a renewed focus on the individual. Personal qualities were much more valued. People started to develop themselves and more attention was paid to the individual during their life. In these portraits attention was paid to the traits of the individual and realism became important again.

Image Study

Based on his image study, Luc Cappaert is creating a series of grayscale portraits of all First Ladies of the United States. Luc’s typical greyscale technique has produced some of his strongest and most applauded work. This subtle but powerful style allows for consistency throughout the series and permits the audience to hone in on the First Lady in the artwork and her story without distraction.

The First Lady’s signature will be prominently present. The signature is a powerful mark that highlight each Lady’s identity and personality. A signature is the ultimate way to say: This is who I am. It encourages the viewer to really think about the role of each First Lady.

The project features art ranging in size from 6×7 inch to 50×60 inch.

Why this Project?

While there have been a few influential First Lady’s, they traditionally were (and arguably still are) overshadowed by their husbands. Most of the attention in the media and in history focuses on the President. However, the First Lady presumably knows the President best and surely plays an important advisory role, directly or more subtly.

Luc Cappaert is intrigued by the First Lady’s traditional role in the shadow of the world’s most powerful man. He wants to encourage the audience to think about the role of the FLOTUS throughout history but also, ultimately the role of all women in society.

Executing the Concept

The use of the title First Lady to describe the spouse or hostess of an executive began in the United States. In the early days of the republic, there was not a generally accepted title for the wife of the president. Many early first ladies expressed their own preference for how they were addressed, including the use of such titles as “Lady”, “Mrs. President”, and “Mrs. Presidentress”; Martha Washington was often referred to as “Lady Washington.”

Een van de eerste keren dat de term First Lady werd gebruikt, was in een krantenartikel uit 1838 in de St.One of the earliest uses of the term “First Lady” was applied to her in an 1838 newspaper article that appeared in the St. Johnsbury (VT) Caledonian. The author, Mrs. Sigourney, discussing how Martha Washington had not changed, even after her husband George became president, wrote that “The first lady of the nation still preserved the habits of early life. Indulging in no indolence, she left the pillow at dawn, and after breakfast, retired to her chamber for an hour for the study of the scriptures and devotion.”

Dolley Madison was reportedly referred to as “First Lady” in 1849 at her funeral in a eulogy delivered by President Zachary Taylor; however, no written record of this eulogy exists, nor did any of the newspapers of her day refer to her by that title. Sometime after 1849, the title began being used in Washington, D.C., social circles. One of the earliest known written examples comes from the November 3, 1863, diary entry of William Howard Russell, in which he referred to gossip about “the First Lady in the Land,” referring to Mary Todd Lincoln.

The title first gained nationwide recognition in 1877, when newspaper journalist Mary C. Ames referred to Lucy Webb Hayes as “the First Lady of the Land” while reporting on the inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes. e frequent reporting on Lucy Hayes’ activities helped spread use of the title outside Washington.

The current First Lady is Jill Biden. At present, there are five living former first ladies: Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, and Melania Trump.

The Artist on FLOTUS

My lifelong admiration and fascination for The United States was fueled when my son married an American. It brought the US much closer to me than it had ever been and it drove my imagination and inspiration to new heights. The President of the United States naturally takes the stage in history books, documentaries, and media, starting with the Presidential elections. couldn’t help but wonder the role and influence each First Lady had throughout history. Surely, they must be of great importance, yet they almost always are overshadowed by their husbands.

For FLOTUS, each First Lady forms a starting thought, visually clear, fixed, and set in time. It is my goal to respect the portrait but not merely paint a picture, make a copy. I wanted some kind of abstraction and accomplished that by incorporating the autographs. An autograph is like a person’s voice but on its most fundamental level an autograph says: “This is who I am”. It’s my goal to encourage the viewer to think about who each First Lady is and how she contributed to the history of the United States.

Relative to Myself

It was March 16, 1959. I was one year and nine months old when I lost my father. A tragic traffic accident crossed his life. Since that moment, my mother, forever and all alone, raised me with care and warmth. She has paved the way to give my dreams and aspirations all the space they needed. She has laid the path for my artistic freedom to flourish. Now more than ever I understand the powerful First Lady she was to me. Her life in the shadows, always in service of my happiness, emphatically but silently present to guide me.

At that time, 1959, the role of the woman was subservient and anchored in a pattern of male domination. Over time, the role patterns have eroded as we notice in various sectors that women are also standing on stage front and center. The day a woman is elected President of the United States will undoubtedly be a milestone in this evolution. The day the task First Lady emerges from the shadows. A moment when I will revisit the many memories of my mother, my First Lady, on her stage and in the spotlight.