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Knee-length portrait of a man in a black double-breasted suit. He clutches a document in his right hand and stands behind a draped table.

President William McKinley (1843–1901)

In this painting, President William McKinley grasps a map that reads, “Isla de Puerto Rico.” The document is dated July 25, 1898, the day United States troops invaded Puerto Rico during the War of 1898. The eagle-topped column, inkwell, and pen on the table suggest a new chapter in U.S. history to be written by McKinley. 

The preeminent artist Francisco Oller y Cestero is known for tropical still lifes, landscapes, and portraits of intellectuals that convey Puerto Rican identity. Having served as a painter of the Spanish Court in the 1870s, he gained a similar status under the new U.S. colonial government after 1898. Here, he portrays McKinley at a pivotal moment, when the United States transformed itself into an overseas empire. By claiming Spanish provincias de ultramar, or overseas provinces, in the Caribbean and the Pacific as their own, the United States altered the futures of those abroad—and at home.


Francisco Oller y Cestero (1833–1917)
Oil on canvas
147.3 × 83.8 cm (58 × 33 in.)
Collection of Dr. Eduardo Pérez and family