Lake Barrington artist's Lincoln painting at presidential library in Springfield

  • Lake Barrington artist Donn Ziebell stands with his oil painting "400 Split Rails for One Yard of Cloth," which was accepted earlier this month by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

    Lake Barrington artist Donn Ziebell stands with his oil painting "400 Split Rails for One Yard of Cloth," which was accepted earlier this month by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Courtesy of Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

  • Lake Barrington artist Donn Ziebell's oil painting "400 Split Rails for One Yard of Cloth" was accepted earlier this month by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

    Lake Barrington artist Donn Ziebell's oil painting "400 Split Rails for One Yard of Cloth" was accepted earlier this month by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Courtesy of Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

 
 
Updated 10/15/2020 11:21 AM

A Lake Barrington artist says that having one of his paintings displayed in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield is like winning the lottery.

"It's really a lifetime ambition that I imagine many people have," 85-year-old Donn Ziebell said. "I believe the Lord opened that door."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Ziebell said he contacted the library to see if they would be interested in his painting "400 Split Rails for One Yard of Cloth," which illustrates a story from Lincoln's youth. The library accepted his donation in a ceremony earlier this month and planned to display the piece in the atrium.

"We thank Mr. Ziebell for this generous donation," Ian Hunt, the presidential library's chief of acquisitions, said in a statement. "President Lincoln's impact on American society can be seen in how much art is devoted to him, whether it's formal statues, lighthearted movies or this stylized image of young Lincoln hard at work."

The 5-foot-wide, 7-foot-tall painting, which required more than 500 hours of work over nine months, is based on a story about a young, cash-strapped Lincoln laboring to split rails in exchange for cloth for a pair of pants. Ziebell said that before he began to work on the painting, he contacted the Chicago Historical Society, which determined the veracity of the story via a footnote in a book from 1860.

"I describe it as an 'enhanced storybook painting' because I want young children to have a wonderful visual understanding about part of Abraham Lincoln's life and work ethic," Ziebell said.

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Like other Illinoisans, Ziebell said he has a special affinity for Lincoln. When he was a child, he visited Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, a reconstruction of the village where Lincoln lived in his 20s, and was fascinated by its loghouses and stories about the future president.

Ziebell started oil painting as a hobby while on college breaks from the Missouri School of Mines & Metallurgy. His father also was an artist, he said.

He started showing his work in public in 1996. He is especially proud of his painting "Pencil L. Hunter with His Missing Hat," which took third place in an exhibit where one of the jurors was the director of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., he said.

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