Artist Nelson Shanks reveals Lewinsky reference in his Bill Clinton portrait

Nelson Shanks' portrait for President Bill Clinton.

Nelson Shanks' portrait for President Bill Clinton.

Artist Nelson Shanks spoke on The Michael Smerconish Program about the little secret in his Bill Clinton portrait: the shadow of a blue dress, which serves both as a simple visual aide and a complicated metaphor for the scandal stemming from Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

“It wasn’t part of the original concept,” Shanks said. He noticed the mantel behind the president was creating “too much of a line” in the painting — and a nearby mannequin with a dress draped over it would create a shadow to soften that line.

“That was basically it. It wasn’t some deep plot … but it’s a metaphor … there was a shadow across the office,” Shanks said. “Isn’t my responsibility conceiving something that makes it really a historical document? If not, then just produce something that might as well be wallpaper.”

Hear more from the artist about his thinking behind the painting:

Shanks said he inserted a metaphor into President Reagan’s portrait, too:

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