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Nelson Shanks
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Artist
    (December 23, 1937-August 28, 2015)
    Born in Rochester, New York
    Birth name was John Nelson Shanks
    Portrait artist
    Notable portraits include Princess Diana, Pope John Paul II, Bill Clinton, Ronald Regan, Margaret Thatcher and Luciano Pavarotti
    He was a chain smoker.
    After painting Princess Diana, he turned down an offer to paint Prince Charles, commenting, 'You can't do the Yankees and then go do the Mets.'
    He revealed that in his portrait of Bill Clinton, a shadow to the left of the president is that of a hanging dress, intended as a subtle reference to Monica Lewinsky's notorious semen-stained blue dress and, metaphorically, to the shadow the scandal cast on his legacy.
    Ironically, when he was commissioned to do Clinton's portrait, he said, 'There are times when I love to play all kinds of complicated games in painting. But I think this is one where I need to be fairly straightforward.'
    He claimed pressure from the Clintons resulted in the painting being removed from display at the National Portrait Gallery. (A Gallery spokesperson denied the accusation, noting that they have a collection of 22,000 works and space to show only 900 at any given time, so paintings are constantly rotating in and out of display.)
    He and his wife founded Studio Incamminati to teach realist art at no cost to the student (2002).
    He said about abstract art, 'There's a lot of nonsense and charlatanism out there.'
    As a comment on modern art, he and a friend cut out a four square foot piece of masonite, unwound two rolls of toilet paper on it, randomly spray painted red lacquer over it, and entered the result (of about two minutes of work) under the friend's name at the Mid-South Art Exhibit. It took third place out of a couple thousand of entries.
    At the unveiling of her official portrait, Margaret Thatcher declared, 'Nelson is not only a painter, he's a philosopher.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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