Painting Captures Tyson’s Soul
Marilyn Titone Schaefer
/ AVP, Communications Director
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An i-Phone can capture a picture, but a painting can capture your soul, said astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson as he stepped back and looked at his own portrait when he was in Springfield recently and asked to speak at his portrait unveiling. The portrait is permanent, ongoing recognition for being awarded the Lincoln Leadership Prize by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Foundation. The portrait now hangs in the library atrium.
Tyson pointed out that a photograph captures a person at a moment in time. “But an artist can capture your mood over a period of time. That’s something a snapshot can’t do.” He paused to look at his portrait again and added, “But this is spooky real . . . (the artist) captured my soul and put it on canvas.”
Noting that, “They got it all wrong in the late 1890s when portrait photography kicked in,” Tyson went on to say that it’s an honor to know his portrait will hang with the likes of Sandra Day O’Connor and Steven Spielberg.
Pointing at his own portrait, Tyson said, “One hundred years from now, they’ll ask, ‘Who is this guy?’ I don’t consider myself as a leader. People follow me, but that’s different. I’m just trying to make the world more scientifically relevant.”
Abraham Lincoln understood the importance of science. In the height of the Civil War, he established the National Academy of Sciences. The organization’s job, said Tyson, was to advise the president. One of the first questions the organization’s 50 members tackled was how to make magnetic compasses work on iron-clad ships.
Tyson concluded his brief remarks with, “I’m proud to bring this whole other dimension of Lincoln’s life to the forefront.”