Ya just gotta love this story.
In the vein of “now it can be told” stories, one Nelson Shanks, a Pennsylvania artist, reveals to the Philadelphia Daily News that in painting a very presidential portrait of Bill Clinton to hang in the National Portrait Gallery, Shanks painted in… the shadow of Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress. Reported the Daily News in the question and answer style interview with reporter Stephanie Farr.
Renowned Bucks County portrait artist Nelson Shanks has painted everyone from Princess Diana to President Bill Clinton and from Pope John Paul II to Marisa Tomei….
Q: Was there anybody who made you nervous painting them?
No. There are plenty of them I’ve made nervous. Especially Clinton. Oh, he was petrified.
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.]
What can one say?
This Clinton portrait will no doubt send many straight back to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. The 1891 novel tells the tale of a young, hedonistic Englishman who indulges himself in the A-Z list of pleasures and immoralities. As he does so a portrait of his handsome visage ages — while Gray himself does not. This goes on for years until he finally commits a murder, and so enraged at his life does he become that with what’s left of his conscience he takes the knife he used to kill and stabs repeatedly at his aging portrait. Shrieks rent the air, the police are summoned by the servants, and upon prying open a locked room they find a decayed corpse so decomposed that it is identifiable only by the rings on the skeletal fingers — identified by the servants as rings belonging to their master. The corpse has been stabbed everywhere as if in a fit of rage. Only then does everyone notice that the portrait is not only untouched — but the image has reverted to that of the handsome, youthful Dorian Gray. But the real Dorian Gray, done in by his life of transgressions, is quite finished, the stabs at the eerie portrait transferred to himself.
Now comes the news that Hillary Clinton is moving up her presidential bid, with an announcement scheduled for next month. Says the Wall Street Journal story that had the (paywalled) scoop as to why the sudden rush: “A super PAC loyal to Mrs. Clinton has faced hesitation from donors who don’t want to make big pledges until she is a candidate. Such concerns would evaporate after she announces.”
Among other things an early announcement would eliminate the swirl of rumors out there in the world political that the supposed heiress to the Clinton presidential legacy is deliberately locking herself away from the ongoing controversy of events national and international — that she is in fact lacking the “fire in the belly” for all that a campaign and White House tenure entail, or even that she has a health problem. An announcement next month would bring an immediate halt to the endless rumor mill speculation and get the show on the road.
Yet the news of the Clinton portrait controversy is telling.
One can think of no other presidential portrait where the artist believes he not only intimidated his presidential subject but thought the subject was such an incredible blackguard that he saw fit to add a telltale and eternal reminder of his subject’s presidential misadventure into the portrait. It is as if Richard Nixon were painted with the Watergate in the background or Warren Harding with the image of the Teapot Dome rock formation in Wyoming looming behind him. (The Teapot Dome — so-named for its shape — was also the site of Naval Petroleum Reserves that were caught up in the biggest presidential scandal until Nixon’s Watergate.)
This news of the Clinton portrait, of course, comes on the heels of news that the Clinton Foundation was busily accepting money from foreign governments while Mrs. Clinton served as Secretary of State. Headlined the Washington Post:
Foreign governments gave millions to foundation while Clinton was at State Dept.
The Post went on to say:
The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration, foundation officials disclosed Wednesday.
On the heels of this out tumbled stories of cozy relationships between the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton-run State Department, and not just foreign governments but major corporations. As Fox News headlined:
Hillary Clinton’s ties to corporate donors, lobbyists while secretary of state scrutinized
The Fox story begins:
Hillary Clinton’s ties to large corporations have come under more scrutiny after it was revealed that dozens of companies that have donated millions to her family’s foundation also lobbied the State Department during her tenure as secretary of state.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the 60 companies who lobbied Clinton’s State Department between 2009 and 2013 donated over $26 million to the Clinton Foundation in that period. The donors include instantly recognizable names like General Electric, Exxon Mobil, and Boeing.
The Journal also reports that at least 44 of the 60 companies participated in philanthropy projects valued at $3.2 billion set up by the Clinton Global Initiative, which is a wing of the foundation. At least 25 of the companies also contributed to 15 public-private partnerships created by Clinton and coordinated by the State Department.
While there is no evidence that any laws were broken, the connections do raise potentially thorny ethical questions as Clinton prepares for a likely 2016 run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Fed into all of this are stories swirling about Bill Clinton and financier Jeffrey Epstein. Producing sample headlines like this one from the New York Post:
‘Sex slave’ claims Bill Clinton visited Epstein’s ‘orgy island’
The Post story begins:
Virginia Roberts , who’s accused Epstein of turning her into a “sex slave” at age 17 and forcing her to sleep with his powerful friends, claimed Clinton stayed in one of the many villas on Epstein’s US Virgin Islands estate — where group sex was a “regular occurrence.”
“I remember asking Jeffrey, ‘What’s Bill Clinton doing here?’ kind of thing, and he laughed it off and said, ‘Well, he owes me a favor,’ ” Roberts told her lawyers in a 2011 interview obtained by RadarOnline.com. “He never told me what favors they were.”
Bubba was accompanied by two of Epstein’s regular girlfriends and “two young girls that I could identify,” Roberts claimed.
You can almost see the next portrait in the National Gallery now.
There she is. President Hillary Clinton. Looking august, austere, a Napoleoness with arms crossed. Behind her? A globe of the world she ruled. Yet like the picture of Dorian Gray that captures the hard truth of reality, there in the background is Bill frolicking on an island while in another corner, on a White House mantle, rests a discreet bouquet that looks eerily like dollar signs.
Mrs. Clinton, as with all of us, will fade. But the portrait of Clinton reality will remain. Etched in oil for eternity just like its companion piece — the Shadow of Monica Lewinsky.