Period & Style
The NPG's Warren Perry discusses a 1968 portrait of Richard Nixon by Norman Rockwell.
Richard Nixon owed his election as Dwight Eisenhower's vice president to his early reputation as an anti-Communist. By the time he became president in 1968, however, his thinking had shifted considerably. As a result, under his leadership, the confrontational strategies that had long dominated this country's response to Communism gave way to a historic détente, marked by American recognition of Communist China and better relations with the Soviet Union.
These achievements, however, were eventually overshadowed by disclosure of the Watergate scandals-a web of illegal activity involving scores of Nixon's advisers. Although never implicated in the original crimes, Nixon did become party to attempts to cover them up. Following irrefutable disclosure of that fact, he became the only president ever to resign from office.
Artist Norman Rockwell admitted that he had intentionally flattered Nixon in this portrait. Nixon's appearance was troublesomely elusive, Rockwell noted, and if he was going to err in his portrayal, he wanted it to be in a direction that would please the subject.
Recorded at NPG, October 17, 2012
Richard Milhous Nixon / Norman Rockwell / Oil on canvas, 1968 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; donated to the people of the United States
of America by the Richard Nixon Foundation / © The Norman Rockwell Estate Licensing Co.