Several years before the Watergate scandal brought Richard Nixon’s presidency to an undignified end, a grateful Hungarian émigré artist memorialised the politician in an altogether more favourable light.
Nixon at Andau was painted in 1970 by Ferenc Daday, who had emigrated to the United States along with many of his compatriots after the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The painting recalls Nixon’s visit that year to meet displaced Hungarians in an Austrian refugee camp. As vice president to Eisenhower, Nixon had fought to relax immigration rules to allow Hungarians to move to the United States after their uprising was crushed by the Soviet Red Army.
The painting now takes pride of place in the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, in the statesman’s birth town of Yorba Linda, California. As Daday was trained in the official Soviet artistic dogma of Socialist Realism, he depicted Nixon in the heroic style that was normally reserved for communist leaders such as Stalin and Lenin. This cultish portrayal of Nixon as ‘prophet and peacemaker’ has led the painting to be derided by some. Yet the monumental ten-by-six-foot canvas is a fascinating historical record of an alternative view of a divisive Cold War leader.
Images: Ferenc Daday, Nixon at Andau, 1970. Oil on canvas. Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, Yorba Linda, California. Photos by Jim Steinhart © 2011
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