Article in Discover Bartow Magazine
by Marie Nesmith, photos by Randy Parker
Known as the artist’s “love letter to America,” the large- scale portrait of 20th century U.S. presidents now also will serve as a love letter to veterans experiencing post- traumatic stress. Purchased by Texan philanthropist and Vietnam War veteran Harry Patterson, the 13-foot- by-20-foot oil painting is considered one of the Booth Western Art Museum’s most beloved works over the past decade.
“I first viewed the [Ross] Rossin presidential painting the summer of 2017 while on a history tour,” Patterson said. “When I stepped out of the elevator, I was captivated [when] I saw it. It looked like a photo, but it was a portrait of our 20th-century presidents, done by a Bulgarian emigrant as a love letter to them and our country.”
Opened in August 2003, the Booth is situated at 501 Museum Drive. The 120,000-square-foot venue became an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in 2006.
The Cartersville museum offers a variety of exhibit spaces, some of which include the Civil War gallery; Sculpture Court; a presidential gallery; the Picturing America photography gallery; and the interactive children’s gallery, Sagebrush Ranch.
“The Rossin painting of the 20th-century presidents has been hanging at the museum since 2009 and has been one of the most popular works of art in the museum since then,” said Seth Hopkins, executive director for the Booth museum. “During that entire time, it has been for sale, a fact I have been mentioning during tours for almost 10 years.
“I have also been mentioning the artist was offering a buy-one-get-one arrangement, whereby the purchaser of the 20th-century presidents could also own a painting of the 19th-century presidents and that the artist had agreed to paint that painting on location in the museum,” he said, adding Rossin — after consulting with Patterson — also is painting a portrait of 21st century presidents, with room on the canvas for additional U.S. commanders in chief to join George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. “… The museum has negotiated to keep the paintings together at the Booth for at least two years; after that, they may travel the country or the new owner could decide to leave them at the museum permanently. Either way, we are excited about the progress on the two new paintings. If they do travel, we will have gotten to live with them for over 10 years, for which we are thankful.”
Immigrating to America in 2001, Rossin has painted more than 650 commissioned portraits. Four of his creations are included in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection.
“It was year 2000 when the world was celebrating the new millennium, and we were reflecting on the past century,” stated Rossin in the Booth’s promotional video. “So as an artist and somebody who loves history and particularly the history of this country, I was intrigued by the idea of putting on one canvas a portrait of the whole … presidential institution, which has never been done before in such scale — 18 presidents in one place.
“… As much as I was careful to depict their personal individual characteristics and what makes them different from one another, I had to have them share the same spirit, the same positive energy that is so typical for this country. I call this painting my love letter to America because for me this is still a land of dreams and opportunities. But dreams and opportunities that didn’t happen overnight, that take effort and struggle and passion and sacrifice to make it happen for me, for all of us, for all of us that are coming.”
Calling the initial painting a “treasure” that his family was “blessed to stumble onto,” Patterson believes discovering the work wasn’t accidental. An Army sergeant in the Vietnam War, he is excited for this painting and the two in progress to help his fellow veterans. Looking toward the future, Patterson hopes the artwork will bring awareness, prayers and funding to the National Veterans Wellness and Health Center.
“Along with the Booth museum, our plan is to leave [the painting of 20th-century American presidents] at the Booth along with the future ones coming,” said Patterson, who refers to himself as a PTS survivor. “Booth has agreed to let the National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center in Angel Fire, New Mexico, have displays with information by the portraits to draw attention and support for the amazing center there, focusing to help with PTS couples.
“… Future plans would be for the … portraits to be transported for viewing across the U.S., hopefully drawing more attention and support for the Veterans Wellness and Healing Center and also our country’s patriotism.”
Along with providing workspace for Rossin to create portraits of the 19th- and 21st-century presidents, the Booth also is enabling the public to watch his progress in person or via webcam link at https://boothmuseum.org/presidential-project/