spacer Woodrow Wilson Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)
Twenty-eighth President (1913-1921)

Elected to the White House after winning wide acclaim as the reforming governor of New Jersey, Woodrow Wilson left an impressive legacy of progressive reform that sought to curb abusive business practices and improve conditions for workers. But Wilson was not as successful in winning approval for his international idealism during World War I. Determined to make this conflict "the war to end all wars," he sought at its end to create a world order that put peace ahead of national self-interest. America's European allies, however, undermined these hopes, insisting on a postwar peace settlement that contained the seeds of another war. A far worse disappointment for Wilson himself was his failure to persuade his own country to join the League of Nations, an organization he had conceived as the best hope for avoiding future wars. Having suffered a stroke while campaigning for American entry into the League, he left office in 1921, broken in both health and spirit.

Edmund Tarbell wanted Wilson to pose for this portrait, which was to be part of an exhibition featuring likenesses of the political and military leaders of World War I. Unfortunately, Wilson's poor health would not permit that, and Tarbell ended up working from photographs.

Edmund Tarbell (1862-1938)
Oil on canvas, 1921
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; transfer from the National Museum of American Art
Gift of the city of New York
through the National Art Committee, 1923


Enlarged image