Clinton's Portrait Has Hint Of Lewinsky's Blue Dress, Artist Says

Artist Nelson Shanks' 2005 portrait of former President Clinton, which hangs at the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery. (AP)
Artist Nelson Shanks' 2005 portrait of former President Clinton, which hangs at the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery. (AP)

Here's a story about that blue dress. No – not that blue dress.

Artist Nelson Shanks, who has painted royalty, popes and world leaders, tells the Philadelphia Daily News that his portrait of President Clinton for the National Portrait Gallery has a not-so-obvious reference to the infamous blue dress worn by Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern with whom Clinton had an affair.

Here's the excerpt:

Q: Who did you find was the hardest to capture?

Clinton was hard. I'll tell you why. The reality is he's probably the most famous liar of all time. 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.

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.

And so the Clintons hate the portrait. They want it removed from the National Portrait Gallery. They're putting a lot of pressure on them. [Reached by phone Thursday, a spokeswoman from the National Portrait Gallery denied that.]

The portrait, which was unveiled in 2006, is also notable for not depicting Clinton's wedding ring.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.