Home Arts & Culture Nelson Shanks painted Monica Lewinsky reference in Bill Clinton’s official presidential portrait

Nelson Shanks painted Monica Lewinsky reference in Bill Clinton’s official presidential portrait

Nelson Shanks, who painted the portrait of President Bill Clinton that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, revealed he included a reference to Monica Lewinsky in the official painting.

In an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News, Nelson Shanks said he included a shadow over the fireplace cast from a blue dress on a mannequin.

Nelson Shanks said painting Bill Clinton was his hardest assignment because “he is probably the most famous liar of all time”. So he added the nod to the Lewinsky scandal because it had cast a shadow over Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Photo Flickr

Photo Flickr

“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,” the painter said.

Nelson Shanks told the Daily News: “If you look at the left-hand side of it there’s a mantel 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.”

The artist did not reveal this nine years ago when the portrait was unveiled.


Nelson Shanks alluded in the interview with the Daily News that Bill and Hillary Clinton are aware of the symbolism in the painting.

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