The Dress Before #TheDress: Artist Painted Monica’s Frock Into Bill Clinton Portrait
Just when you thought enough time had passed for us to forget about the scandal that racked Bill Clinton’s presidency, there’s now a picture immortalizing the moment for all to see: forever and ever amen.
In 2006, Pennsylvania artist Nelson Shanks, 77, painted a portrait of the former president for the National Portrait Gallery. But he took an artistic liberty.
Shanks himself told the Philadelphia Daily News that he included a reference to Monica Lewinsky’s infamous blue dress in the portrait of Bill Clinton.
He started the story by explaining how nervous Clinton was when he was being captured. In fact, Shanks said Clinton was petrified. He also said of all the people he’s painted, including Princess Diana, Pope John Paul II and many more, Clinton was the hardest to capture.
“Clinton was hard. I’ll tell you why. The reality is he’s probably the most famous liar of all time. He and his administration did some very good things, of course, but I could never get this Monica thing completely out of my mind and it is subtly incorporated in the painting.
If you look at the left-hand side of it there’s a mantel in the Oval Office and I put a shadow coming into the painting and it does two things. It actually literally represents a shadow from a blue dress that I had on a mannequin, that I had there while I was painting it, but not when he was there. It is also a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him.
And so the Clintons hate the portrait. They want it removed from the National Portrait Gallery. They’re putting a lot of pressure on them.”
The National Portrait Gallery denied that last bit about Clinton wanting it removed. In fact, it was Clinton who reportedly chose Shanks to capture his likeness.
The portrait did cause a bit of an uproar when it was first unveiled, 9 years ago, because Clinton’s wedding ring was missing from his left hand in the painting. Which might have been symbolic as well.
interesting story, right?
But I wonder do you think Shanks was being disrespectful or petty by bringing up old stuff? Or do you think since this scandal and the subsequent lie was so historic that it’s fair game in a portrait?
What do you think?