Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945)

Object Number: 
Baked clay with a gold-bronze patina
Overall: 9 1/4 x 3 3/4 x 5 in. ( 23.5 x 9.5 x 12.7 cm )
signed: on back of neck: "Jo DAVIDSON 1934 [copyright stamp]"
Portrait bust
Gallery Label: 
The thirty-second president of the United States was born at Hyde Park, New York, the son of James and Sara (Delano) Roosevelt. He was a distant cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, who became president while Franklin was attending Harvard (A.B. 1903). After being admitted to the bar in 1907 he practiced his profession in New York, although politics absorbed more and more of his time and interests. He was elected to the state senate in 1910 and from 1913-20 was assistant secretary of the Navy. In 1928 he was elected governor of New York, and in 1932 he defeated Herbert Hoover for the presidency, offering his "New Deal" policies to the voters as a cure for the business depression that gripped the nation. Under Roosevelt, who was elected to an unprecedented four terms in the White House, the federal government entered the daily life and work of Americans as it had never done before. The Roosevelt administration instituted a series of innovative federal programs and agencies such as the social security system, the Works Projects Administration, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and so on. Roosevelt was the nation's leader during most of World War II. When he died suddenly at Warm Springs, Georgia, on April 12, 1945, the tide of battle had clearly turned to assure an Allied victory. Jo Davidson, who by 1934 was already established as one of America's foremost portrait sculptors, was invited by Sara Delano Roosevelt to do a portrait head of her son, the president. He called at the White House and was warmly received by his subject who invited him to stay for dinner. A fast friendship developed as the sculptor modeled his sensitive portrait with its reflection of the care and responsibilities that fell upon the chief executive. In his autobiography Davidson recalled the experience: "The next day I worked in the President's office. The President sat at his desk and visitors came and went. I rolled my stand around to observe him from all angles. When the first visitor of the day entered, he stopped short when he saw me but F.D.R laughed and said: 'It's quite all right. You can say anything you like in from of Jo - he just don't know nothing.'" (Jo Davidson, Between Sittings, 1951, pp. 276-277.)
Credit Line: 
Purchase, Foster-Jarvis Fund
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group