Commission of Fine Arts lauds Mint presentation of designs

Depiction of source materials for presidential portraits gains praise
Published : 09/28/11
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The U.S. Mint presented designs for the four 2013 Presidential dollars in a new way during the Sept. 15 meeting of the members of the Commission of Fine Arts.

The panel agreed on designs for William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson (see Coin World Special Edition, Oct. 3 issue, for details). Three of the four designs recommended are of profile portraits rather than frontal portraits.

Profiles have been the exception for the presidential coin series that began in 2007. That may reflect the views of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, which balked at the Mint’s initial proposal for the first four coins in the series, issued in 2007. The panel refused to back the Mint’s plan to use the same designs, all profiles, that it had placed on its Presidential medal series.

A new approach

The Mint presented the designs to members at the CFA meeting in a new way. Kaarina Budow of the United States Mint presented each of the proposed designs for the obverses of the presidential coins on slides that also included the former president’s White House portrait, the intaglio engraving of the president from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the portrait on the president’s official medal.

Those are the three major references that the Mint gives its artists as they prepare proposals for the presidential coin series.

The presentation technique brought kudos for Budow from both Earl A. Powell, the CFA’s chair, and Pamela Nelson, its vice chair.

“The references are very helpful,” said Powell, director of the National Gallery of Art.

“It really does help,” agreed Nelson, a Dallas artist.

Budow said she had been presenting those same materials to the commission separately, but she decided that placing them alongside the proposed designs would be more helpful.

She also noted that the Mint was forwarding more designs, including profiles, because some members of the reviewing panels had requested them.

The Mint offered 10 McKinley images, including two profiles; 11 Roosevelt images, including four profiles; 11 Taft images, including one profile; and nine Wilson images, including three profiles.

CFA members have been stronger in their requests for profiles, saying that they believed the presidents might look better in profile than in a frontal image.

Roosevelt portrait debate

Witold Rybczynski, a professor of urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, objected to all 11 of the Roosevelt designs.

“I find these designs awful,” he said, saying none captured his image of the president.

Nelson said she liked the jowls in one of the Roosevelt profiles and said they show “some determination.”

Rybczynski agreed. So did the panel.

That was the most extended exchange over the designs.

Typically, the commission members indicated the number of the design they liked without extended comment.

When it was over, the panel’s chairman and vice chairman again thanked the Mint’s Kaarina Budow for the way she presented the images.

CCAC members usually spend more time on each design than the CFA members do. The CFA is charged with reviewing designs for federal buildings and memorials in the Washington area as well as coin and medal designs. The CFA panel had spent an hour going over a proposal for a major memorial to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower before the Mint presentation. ■

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