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Picturing the Senate

Nelson Aldrich by Paul Peter Kiehart

Since 1789 United States senators have been the frequent subject of paintings, sculptures, illustrations, photographs, and cartoons. While painters produced stately portraits in oil, and photographers used the latest technology to capture more realistic likenesses, illustrators and cartoonists produced senatorial portraits that were decidedly less formal and certainly less flattering.


Prominent senators like Nelson Aldrich of Rhode Island became popular models for artists of all media. Whether posing for formal portraits, or being lambasted in popular periodicals, Aldrich was rarely out of the public eye during his long Senate career. Likewise, the Senate has enjoyed (in some cases endured) uninterrupted public attention since 1789.