Be Careful – Ida McKinley, Ten of Hearts
1998, oil on linen, 70 x 72”
Ida had once been a vigorous young woman with luminous eyes, but her mental and physical condition deteriorated rapidly after the death of her mother and the difficult birth of her second child, who died 5 months later. Besides developing phlebitis, which made it difficult for her to walk, she is believed to have suffered brain damage. Ida became obsessed with the notion that God also wanted her other child Katie. All of Ida’s protectiveness was in vain — Katie contacted typhoid fever and died at the age of 4.
William was unselfishly devoted to Ida’s care, despite the demands of the Presidency. The McKinleys broke White House protocol by sitting next to each other during state dinners, so that William would be near at hand to conceal Ida’s face with his napkin when he sensed her body growing rigid and a seizure coming on. He would then proceed with the meal as if nothing had happened.
This painting shows the tension between Ida and William when he hears the tell-tale hissing sound she made when a seizure was imminent. William was assassinated. As he lay dying, his thoughts went to his wife and he implored his secretary: “Be careful how you tell her — oh, be careful.”