Artist Says He Put Famous Lewinsky Dress In Clinton Official Portrait

See that shadow over the fireplace in Bill Clinton’s National Portrait Gallery painting? The one immediately to his left? That’s Monica Lewinsky’s tainted blue dress, artist Nelson Shanks told the Philadelphia Daily News in an article published on March 1.

The life-sized painting of the former president was commissioned by the Gallery in early 2006, and was formally unveiled at the Smithsonian that April. The eight-year gap between first rumors of the Lewinsky predicament and his painting assignment wasn’t long enough for Shanks, apparently. That’s why he included reference to it in the portrait, he told Daily News reporter Stephanie Farr.

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.

That subtlety is included right next to Clinton, Shanks said:

If you look at the left-hand side of it there’s a mantle 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.

Here’s the full picture:

clinton painting

Shanks might not be the only one who interpreted that reference, but that’s only a big “might.” He told Daily News that the Clintons themselves:

…hate the portrait. They want it removed from the National Portrait Gallery. They’re putting a lot of pressure on them.

Staff at the Gallery said the complete opposite, though, Daily News says. There’s been no such request or pressure.

A recognized American artist, Shanks’ list of famous portrait subjects include everyone from Ronald Reagan to Pope John Paul II, but he’s most known for his painting of Princess Diana, which is today displayed in her family home.

Of course, after this recent rehash, he might become better known for trivial gossip.


H/T: Talking Points Memo | Image: National Portrait Gallery via Philadelphia Daily News

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