Elizabeth Shoumatoff

Elizabeth Shoumatoff (Russian: Елизавета Николаевна Шуматова, Yelizaveta Nikolayevna Shumatova, née Avinoff) (October 6, 1888 – November 30, 1980) was a Russian-American painter who was best known for painting the Unfinished Portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Other paintings included portraits of Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson.[2]

Elizabeth Shoumatoff
Elizabeth Shoumatoff.jpg
Born(1888-10-06)October 6, 1888
DiedNovember 30, 1980(1980-11-30) (aged 92)
Glen Cove, New York, United States[1]
OccupationPortrait Artist
Known forLast portrait of President Roosevelt (FDR)
Notable work
Portraits of FDR, Frick, Dupont, President Johnson
Leo Shoumatoff
(until 1928)
RelativesAndrey Avinoff (brother)

Early lifeEdit

Shoumatoff was born in Kharkiv (now in Ukraine)[3] on October 6, 1888, the youngest child of an aristocratic military family in what was then Imperial Russia. Her father, Nikolai Aleksandrovich Avinov (1844-1911) was a lieutenant-general in the Imperial Russian Army.

Her eldest sibling Nikolai, a professor of fiscal law, was executed in 1937 during the Great Purge. Her next oldest brother Andrey Avinoff was a prominent entomologist and artist. Elizabeth Shoumatoff went to the United States with her husband Leo Shoumatoff (a member of the Russian Purchasing Commission) in 1917 and after the October Revolution decided to stay there. They eventually made their home on Long Island. Leo Shoumatoff died in 1928 (drowned).


Shoumatoff's extraordinary talent for portraiture brought commissions from some of the most illustrious families in America, Great Britain and Europe. Her clients included members of the Frick, du Pont, Mellon, Boman, Woodruff and Firestone families,[2] plus the Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was sitting for her at Warm Springs, Georgia, when he suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945.[4] When she was working, he said "I have a terrific headache."[5]

Shoumatoff's portrait of Lyndon B. Johnson is on display at the White House. It's the official presidential one approved by Johnson who had famously rejected Peter Hurd's prior attempt by calling it "the ugliest thing I ever saw." Hurd's painting is exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery.[6]

Death and legacyEdit

A longtime resident of Locust Valley, New York, Shoumatoff died in November 1980 aged 92.[1] Her estate donated some of the sketches related to the Unfinished Portrait to the Franklin D. Roosevelt American Heritage Center Museum.[7] Some of her other works and materials from the latter part of her life are now in the Archives of American Art.[8]


  1. ^ a b Saxon, Wolfgang (December 1, 1980). "Elizabeth Shoumatoff, 92, Dead; Painted Portraits of 2 Presidents". The New York Times. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Shoumatoff, Elizabeth (1991). FDR's Unfinished Portrait: A Memoir. University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN 978-0-8229-3659-6.
  3. ^ "Elizabeth Shoumatoff Papers, 1945-1994 | Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum". www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu. Retrieved 2020-02-23.
  4. ^ "Franklin D. Roosevelt Day by Day – April". In Roosevelt History. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Collections and Programs. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
  5. ^ "FDR's Final Days". History Channel Club. Archived from the original on 2013-05-17. Retrieved 2009-07-08.
  6. ^ Gamarekian, Barbara. "Putting the V.I.P.'s on Canvas," The New York Times, Monday, April 7, 1986. Retrieved November 11, 2021
  7. ^ "Elizabeth Shoumatoff". Elizabeth Shoumatoff. Franklin D. Roosevelt American Heritage Center Museum. Archived from the original on 2008-08-07. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
  8. ^ "Elizabeth Shoumatoff papers, 1945–1991". Archives of American Art. Retrieved 2012-05-14.