The lost Gerald Ford portrait: An art mystery

The lost Gerald Ford portrait: An art mystery

Lost Gerald Ford PaintingGRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — This is the mystery of a painting that no one knew was missing. It’s the story of an often overlooked president, a painter’s proudest moment and a cluttered coat closet in a tony suburb of Boston. The tale begins in that coat closet (though some would argue it also begins at an unknown place and time years earlier). And it ends — unsolved but at least somewhat resolved — in a stately presidential library at noon today, where a president’s daughter is surprised to learn that the painting, and its mystery, even exist.

Late last fall Susan Edgman-Levitan finally got around to cleaning out the stack of framed pictures in her Chestnut Hill home. She had been decluttering, room by room, for months by then, and now it was time to tackle the collection of bubble-wrapped stuff behind the door of the walk-in coat closet. She had a vague memory of stowing them away back there when her daughter brought home a variety of prints from a semester abroad in 2010. Amelia had sent everything out to be framed, then took the few she liked best back to her college dorm, leaving the rest in storage with Mom and Dad.

About halfway down the pile was something that was most definitely not a reproduction print from an Italian museum gift shop. It was in a “very primitive frame, not a professional-looking job at all,” Edgman-Levitan noticed from the back, and then she turned it around to find herself looking into the eyes of a man who felt familiar but she couldn’t immediately place. It was a good-quality oil painting, by someone with talent, of someone with presence. There was a resemblance to her brother, “but no, I don’t think that’s Tom,” she thought. Perhaps a relative on her husband’s side?

As she was staring, her husband, Richard Levitan, came into the room and looked over her shoulder at the canvas in her hand.

“Isn’t that…” he began.

The name came to her just as he said that, and they finished the sentence together…

“Isn’t that … Gerald Ford?”  READ MORE