Bess Truman, King of Clubs

Oil and acrylic on canvas 72 x48"
©1998 Tina Mion
From the collection of Ken and Nancy Kranzberg

Bess Truman steadfastly guarded her family’s privacy. Harry, Bess, and her mother lived together in Bess’s family home in Independence, Missouri, from the time they were newlyweds. Bess often returned, even during Harry’s Presidency. Two of Bess’s brothers also built homes behind their domineering and needy mother’s house.

Harry worried that if he ran for President, Bess’s family secret would be exploited. This secret is represented in my painting by the two black windows. Bess is taking refuge in the shadows while holding Harry to the light. In stark contrast to today’s political ugliness, Bess’s family secret was never made public: When she was 16 years old, early one morning her father went into the bathroom and blew his brains out. Bess Truman died in her home in Independence at the age of 97, our longest-lived First Lady.

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