Thomas Jefferson: image and ideology
Wilson, Gaye N. S. B.
This thesis explores the public image of Thomas Jefferson as recorded in his major life portraits. It consults the traditions that surrounded eighteenth-century portraiture and the history of the portrait as a means of expressing authority, power, and personal interest. This study contends that Jefferson worked within these traditions and fashioned and refashioned an image that promoted his vision of American republicanism. Therefore, it places each portrait within the context of the sociopolitical environment in which it was created and considers Jefferson’s political motives and actions against these recorded images. This departs from previous works that stopped with an identification of the life portraits, a discussion of the artist, and an evaluation of the merits of the portrait as a work of art. Rather it builds upon these earlier studies to approach Jefferson’s use of the portrait to manage his image and advance his political and ideological aims for the newly formed nation. The goal of this thesis is to offer an enlarged and diverse assessment of this leading founder of the American republic through the public image he created in his life portraits.