spacer Harry S. Truman Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)
Thirty-third President (1945-1953)

When Franklin Roosevelt died in 1945, his successor, Vice President Harry Truman, felt as if the weight of the world had fallen on him. Feeling woefully unprepared, he now had the responsibility for guiding the country through the final phases of World War II and the often-jolting adjustments to peace.

Elected to the presidency in his own right in 1948, Truman had his greatest impact in foreign policy, and his commitment to containing the postwar spread of Communist influence in the world set a pattern in American diplomacy that prevailed for many more decades. Among his most notable achievements was the defeat of Communist takeovers in Greece and Turkey and of the Soviet Union's attempt to push the West out of Berlin. The peppery Truman also presided over implementation of the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe's war-torn economies a scheme that may be the greatest triumph in the annals of American diplomacy. The Vienna-born Greta Kempton was Harry Truman's favorite portraitist. Shortly after she finished what would become his official White House likeness in 1947, she began this portrait. Left in an unfinished state, the picture was finally completed in 1970, when members of Truman's administration presented it to the National Portrait Gallery.

Greta Kempton (1903-1991)
Oil on canvas, 1948 and 1970
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Dean Acheson, Thomas C. Clark, John W. Snyder, Robert A. Lovett, Clinton P. Anderson, Charles F. Brannan, Charles Sawyer, W. Averell Harriman, David K. E. Bruce, Edward H. Foley, Stuart Symington, William McChesney Martin, Clark Clifford, Charles S. Murphy, Ward M. Canaday, and Joseph Stack

Enlarged image