Nelson Shanks (1937-2015)

Controversial portrait painter

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Nelson Shanks, acclaimed American realist painter of celebrities and officials ranging from Pope John Paul II and Princess Diana to Bill Clinton and the first four female U.S. Supreme Court justices, died late last week. Shanks studied art and architecture throughout the country and world, before eventually founding Studio Incamminati School for Contemporary Realist Art in Philadelphia. Most recently, his controversial claims about his portrait of Bill Clinton and a mysterious shadow resurrected the Lewinsky scandal, to the chagrin of his wife’s presidential campaign.

In 2006, Paula Marantz Cohen, Smart Set writer and dean of the Pennoni Honors College at Drexel University, interviewed Shanks for an episode of The Drexel InterView. Shanks discussed his affinity for nature in realism, as well as portrait painting’s role in drawing out the character of his subjects. View more of Shanks’ work at Studio Incaminanti, and watch the two-part Drexel InterView episode:

Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

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