Theodore Roosevelt

Official presidential portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, painted by John Singer Sargent in 1903. Roosevelt stands proudly upon the landing of a staircase.

A Tale of Two Painters: Theodore Roosevelt's Portraits

Edith Roosevelt's official portrait as First Lady was created by the renowned French artist Théobald Chartran in 1902. Throughout France and the United States, critics praised Chartran's work, applauding his ability to showcase Mrs. Roosevelt's distinctive character and beauty.

Unsurprisingly, then, President Theodore Roosevelt wanted a portrait of himself that was equally as flattering. But, in truth, he was not the most pleasant subject to paint—as could be confirmed by two separate portraitists.

Jean Jules Jusserand, the French ambassador, bonded with Teddy Roosevelt through hiking. Credit: Library of Congress

The French Ambassador was Teddy Roosevelt's Hiking Buddy

In Rock Creek Park, there's a granite bench on the trail near Beach Drive, just south of Peirce Mill, that bears a curious inscription: "Jusserand: Personal tribute of esteem and effection."

It's a safe bet that most of the people who pass by the odd little 78-year-old memorial don't realize that it commemorates one of President Theodore Roosevelt's close friends, French ambassador Jean Jules Jusserand (1855-1932), who spent numerous afternoons hiking with the 26th President in Rock Creek Park. Historian Scott Einberger notes that the Gallic diplomat reportedly was one of few people in Washington who could keep up with Teddy on a hike, but as Jusserand himself admitted in his memoirs, that was no easy feat: "What the President called a walk was a run: No stop, no breathing time, no slacking of speed, but a continuous race, careless of mud, thorns and the rest."