Museum Obtains One of the most Historic and Important FDR Paintings

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One of the most special historic paintings related to the final days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt is now part of the nonprofit Franklin D. Roosevelt American Heritage Center Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts. The three watercolor portraits of FDR, including the last finished portrait of FDR before he died, have never before been seen by the public.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt American Heritage Museum, located in the historic Union Station, Worcester, Massachusetts, is pleased to announce the acquisition of a major art collection related to President Franklin D. Roosevelt: Madame Elizabeth Shoumatoff's watercolor proof studies for her famous unfinished portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt, executed in FDR's final hours. The third portrait of FDR in this precious art collection is actually the last finished portrait of President Roosevelt before his death on April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia.

These are the most storied and famous images of a sitting President in the history of the Presidency of the United States. These three watercolors from the estate of Elizabeth Shoumatoff are the painter's equivalent of a writer's outline, a rough draft of a novel's opening paragraphs. Used to think out matters of color, composition, and depth, they allowed the artist to map her painting before putting her brush to the final canvas.

These stunning images of FDR were created over the three days that Shoumatoff spent as FDR's guest in Warm Springs, Georgia in April, 1945, the last three days of President Roosevelt's life. Certainly she used them when making the two portraits of FDR she executed after 1945, one which she donated to the Little White House, and the other which she created at the request of Lyndon Johnson for the Executive Mansion in Washington in 1967. Each watercolor is archivally matted and framed in goldleaf, and each of the three watercolor proof studies of FDR is progressively more detailed, the third being a magnificent finished likeness to FDR in his last days, wearing his naval cape and grasping a scroll in his left hand.

The first two watercolors framed measure 16 ½ x 24," and the third measures 20 ½ x 24 ½." These historic watercolors not only give us glimpses into the artist's conception of the final work, but also give testimony to a remarkable friendship that sprang up quickly-yet deeply-between artist and subject. A full description is available on the FDR American Heritage Center Museum website at Just go to the Current Events section of our Web site.


Dr. Joseph J. Plaud

President and Founder

Franklin D. Roosevelt American Heritage Center Museum


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