After his defeat in 1888, Grover Cleveland's presidential career was by no means over. Four years later, the electorate returned him to the White House. But Cleveland might have been better off remaining in retirement. By early 1893 the country was entering a deep economic depression, and whatever he did to meet various phases of that crisis seemed only to alienate his supporters. During the final year of his presidency, Cleveland suffered the ultimate humiliation of being an outcast within the party he had once led.
The painter of this portrait, Swedish artist Anders Zorn, drew his loose brushwork and preference for natural lighting from French impressionism. Cleveland was quite pleased with Zorn's likeness, declaring to a correspondent, "As for my ugly mug, I think the artist has 'struck it off' in great shape."