Monday, March 2, 2015

EXTRA: Shadow of blue dress mean-spirited, but hidden detail not unique

The quirky news story of the day on Monday consisted of the tale of the artist who painted the official portrait of former President Bill Clinton – it contains a shadow that the artist said was meant to represent the blue dress famously worn by White House intern/presidential mistress Monica Lewinsky.

A little hidden meaning of the shadow that supposedly hangs over the otherwise interesting tale of the Clinton administration, artist Nelson Shanks told the Philadelphia Daily News.

HE TOLD THE newspaper he deliberately put the shadow (which he says is supposed to be cast from a mannequin wearing the dress just outside of the painting’s view) because he wanted the “taint” of Lewinsky to be included in the portrait that is meant to illustrate Clinton forevermore.

Of course, he didn’t tell anybody about this intent at the time. It is only now, a decade after the portrait was completed and unveiled, that we get to learn this new, hidden meaning, which goes on top of the already-noted fact that Clinton was not depicted wearing his wedding ring in the portrait.

Which I’m presuming means that Shanks has long since been paid for his work, and it would next to impossible for the Clintons to put a stop order on the check. He gets away with this little tweak at the Clinton presidency.

That isn’t something I’m going to get too worked up over.

ALL POLITICAL PEOPLE like to try to have some hidden detail included in their official portraits – some hidden-meaning joke that only certain people get and that most people probably groan over when it is explained to them.

In Illinois, the official portrait of Gov. James R. Thompson depicts him wearing, amongst other things, an Elgin watch. He felt it necessary to include an Illinois-made product.

While former Gov. Jim Edgar is depicted standing in his office in front of a painting of the Lincoln/Douglas debate that took place in his home town of Charleston, Ill.

There also is a framed photograph depicted in the background – a headshot of his wife, Brenda. So we have a former Illinois first lady included in that official gubernatorial portrait by artist William T. Chambers.

BOTH OF THOSE portraits are on display at the Statehouse in Springfield, although there still is a vacancy for where the official Rod Blagojevich gubernatorial portrait should be. My guess is that serving time in federal prison in Colorado doesn’t leave him time to pose, and we may never get that view.

We’ll have to wait and see what portrait Pat Quinn comes up with, and what kind of hidden aspects of his life get included in such an oil painting.

It likely won’t be anything as nasty as what Clinton’s official portrait in the National Portrait Gallery gives us. After all, how many other artists describe their subjects as “the most famous liar of all time” as Shanks did to Clinton?


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