September 26, 2011
This past week, the University of Minnesota welcomed new President Eric Kaler with an inauguration – amongst other fanfare and ceremony. The Student Unions and Activities office shared a photograph of President Kaler next to his picture portrait that will be placed in the President’s Room of Coffman Memorial Union.
This lead me to think of the origin of the portrait of the University president for which the student union is named: President Lotus Delta Coffman. The University Gallery, as it turns out, had a large role in preparing Coffman’s portraiture for display.
From the WAM Collection, file of the Fine Arts Committee, Box 110, Minutes of the Fine Arts Committee, December 4, 1939:
“The fifth item to be discussed was relative to the portrait of President Coffman. This painting was completed by Mr. John Johansen of New York, and was ready for its first viewing by the Arts Committee. The Committee went to Mr. Burton’s studio where the painting was shown. It was the consensus of opinion that the portrait was a dignified one and well represented Mr. Coffman and that for future generations it would be a worthy record of him. Instructions were then given Mrs. Lawrence to take the portrait to the Gallery for cataloguing, photographing, and storage until the frame could be designed by Mr. Johansen and the painting could finally be put into place in the main lounge of the Coffman Memorial union. Instructions were given Mrs. Lawrence to have 6 8×10 photographs made by Mr. Hollis and 1 small photo for the Gallery records. One 8×10 print is to go to Mrs. Coffman, one is to be kept in the Gallery files, and the remaining four are to be sent to Dean Willey’s office.”
*President Coffman passed away September 22 1938.
Rebecca Wilson is a graduate student in the Master of Liberal Studies program at the University of Minnesota, completing a minor in Museum Studies. She also serves as a Visitor Services Assistant at the Weisman Art Museum.