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The Boston Globe

Ideas

Lincoln as careworn hero

How a sculptor gave us our vision of the 16th president

To catch the eyes and minds of the movie-going public, the ad campaign for Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” (which heads into Sunday’s Oscar ceremony with 12 nominations) carried an evocative photo of actor ­Daniel Day-Lewis in close-up profile, his head bowed, looking contemplative and weary. That image hits home with the American audience, connecting with our common perception of Abraham Lincoln as a pensive leader weighed down by the burdens he faced.

Yet this was not always how Americans saw Lincoln. In fact, we owe this vision to a 19th-century artist—one who fashioned a realistic and deeply human Lincoln and moved the nation to see the great leader in a new light.

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