"Leaves of Grass"(Homage to Walt Whitman)

Oil and acrylic on canvas, 24" x 30", 2005

Not available for sale


I received this commission last year for the portrait of American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) for the sesquicentennial celebration of his first publication of Leaves of Grass.


Two elements were requested by the patron Ed Centeno; that the painting portray a young Whitman and the depiction of "the book" Leaves of Grass. My research started with getting reacquainted with his poetry and prose and the reading of several biographies. Phase two proved even more difficult; the finding of an image to draw inspiration from. After viewing commercial images from the patron's personal Whitman collection, surfing the net and several biographies; something click! I was inspired by the 35-year-old "Christ likeness" circa 1854 daguerreotype (Bayley-Whitman Collection, Ohio Wesleyan University) image of Walt.


My personal interpretation for the painting was to have an imposing young image of Walt emanate from a manuscript written by him. I found a photograph of an original letter that Whitman sent to William Sloan Kennedy (his close friend and fellow author) discussing introduction to his first book. I made a silkscreen out of the photograph and incorporating it into the painting.

The pair of young hands represent a generation having been inspired and influenced by the vastness of his literary contribution throughout his lifetime. I am flabbergasted by the countless biographies and the commercialization of his name and image on so many products. Dozens of countries have translated his work, music score, structures name after him and even postage stamps commemorating him. The blade of grass symbolizes all seven revised editions of his greatest contribution to America Poetry: Leaves of Grass.

I am sure that anyone who has read Leaves of Grass perhaps has looked at a batch of grass and been reminded of Whitman's poetry.


Copyright © by Miguel Tió