When people visit the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in December, they will meet one more national leader, Gen. Colin L. Powell. The museum recently commissioned a life-sized, oil-on-canvas painting of Powell from the artist Ron Sherr. On the first day it is on view, Monday, Dec. 3, the museum will hold a public event at 12:30 p.m. in which the artist will talk about the portrait process in front of the work.
“Commissioning portraits is like matchmaking,” said Wendy Wick Reaves, interim director of the National Portrait Gallery. “The matchup of Gen. Powell and Ron Sherr has created a work that embodies how the nation will remember Gen. Powell’s career.”
The son of Jamaican immigrants, retired four-star general Powell decided on a military career while at City College of New York. He served in Vietnam, earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. A White House Fellowship brought him to the attention of Caspar Weinberger, who later, as President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of defense, made Powell his aide. Powell became national security advisor in 1987 and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1991 and helped plan Operation Desert Storm. There, he enunciated the “Powell doctrine” of using “decisive force” to maximize success and minimize casualties, a reformulation of strategy resulting from the army’s unhappiness with the way in which the United States fought the Vietnam War. In 2001 President George W. Bush appointed Powell to be secretary of state.
After visiting a number of places relevant to the general’s career in search of a meaningful and artistically interesting site, Sherr placed Powell in front of Theodore Roosevelt Hall at the National War College at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.
Sherr was born in New Jersey in 1952. He studied at the Ducret School of Art in New Jersey and at the National Academy of Design with Daniel E. Greene and Harvey Dinnerstein, and privately with Burton Silverman. In 1995, his portrait of President George H.W. Bush was installed at the National Portrait Gallery. His awards include the Henry Ward Ranger Purchase Prize, National Academy of Design.
Sherr’s work is also represented in the Phoenix Art Museum, Yale University, Princeton University, the State House in Trenton, N.J., the Gibbes Art Gallery in Charleston, S.C., and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
The National Portrait Gallery
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the history of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the
Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives embody the American story.The National Portrait Gallery, part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Information: (202) 633-1000. Website: npg.si.edu.
Photo editors note: An image of the painting is under embargo until Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m. Contact Bethany Bentley at email@example.com for information.
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