Art for Art's Sake: Artist Paints Clinton Portrait with 'Shadow of Blue Dress'


One can imagine the rage of Bill Clinton when he found this out.


An artist who painted a portrait of former President Bill Clinton says there’s more to the piece than one might see at first blush.

Pennsylvania artist Nelson Shanks told the Philadelphia Daily News that he included a shadow of a blue dress in the 2006 portrait that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. It’s an apparent reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, with Shanks adding that the 42nd president is “probably the most famous liar of all time.”

“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,” the painter said.

“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.”

Shanks claimed that the Clintons have been lobbying the National Portrait Gallery to remove it, but a gallery spokeswoman denied that to the Daily News. Clinton reportedly chose Shanks to paint the portrait back in 2001.

A spokeswoman for the gallery confirmed to POLITICO that the Clintons have not contacted the museum about the painting, nor has the artist made any other statements to the museum regarding its content.

The portrait caused a bit of a stir when it was first unveiled nine years ago, as Clinton’s wedding ring was absent from his likeness.

The man who made a career out of playing vicious “gotcha” games has been gotten. Even if the artist is pulling our leg (the shadow didn’t appear to be a dress until he mentioned it), the fact that we’re all now looking at that portrait in a different light must be driving the ego maniac wild.

For someone as obsessed with his legacy as Clinton, this is an embarrassing blow to him. And what about Hillary? Any reminder of the blue dress dredges up memories in the public that I’m sure she’d rather keep buried.

Watch how quickly the National Portrait Gallery pulls it now that Clinton is on the warpath. I mean, it’s only a museum. He intimidated a gigantic corporation, Walt Disney Company, preventing them from releasing the 9/11 mini-series “The Path to 9/11.” Browbeating a portrait gallery is going to be child’s play.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member