Painter Nelson Shanks Reveals Clinton Portrait Winks at Monica Lewinsky

Nelson Shanks's self-portrait, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Was it Marcel Proust who first pondered, is it black and blue, or white and gold? Fortunately for the free world that painstaking question has dissipated into the viral-filled horizon of our cultural rear view mirror.

And in its place, a more familiar blue dress re-emerges from the political ashes like a well-timed Phoenix.

In a recent interview, portrait painter Nelson Shanks reveals that he had hidden a Monica Lewinsky reference in his official portrait of Bill Clinton hanging in the National Portrait Gallery. Gutsy for an artist whose portfolio boasts Princess Diana and Pope John Paul II.

Nelson Shanks's official portrait of Bill Clinton contains a secret Monica Lewinksy reference. Courtesy of the artist.

Nelson Shanks’s official portrait of Bill Clinton contains a secret Monica Lewinksy reference. Courtesy of the artist.

Shanks’s creative clin d’oeil consists of a painted curvy shadow over the Oval office mantelpiece on the left-hand side of the portrait. “[The shadow] is a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him,” said Shanks.

Echoes of the Monica Lewinsky scandal now share a room with the most noted dignitaries of our time. “The reality is [Clinton’s] probably the most famous liar of all time […] I could never get this Monica thing completely out of my mind and it is subtly incorporated in the painting.”

The 77-year old artist, who presented the portrait in 2006, asserts that the Clintons do not appreciate the painting and wanted it removed from the National Portrait Gallery, although the museum has denied this claim. It remains unclear whether their disdain has anything to do with the shadow in question.

The sodden topic will likely ride a soft media wave in coming days. Shanks claims that the dark outline “literally represents the shadow from a blue dress that [he] had on a mannequin.” Another interesting tidbit of information: Clinton’s wedding ring is curiously absent from the painting. We aren’t judging.


Follow artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

Share

Article topics