Thursday, March 5, 2015

Local artist Nelson Shanks on painting Margaret Thatcher

Philly's own Nelson Shanks had an intimate view of Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister who passed away at the age of 87 today.

Local artist Nelson Shanks on painting Margaret Thatcher

Nelson Shanks´ portrait of Margaret Thatcher, commissioned by the College of William and Mary
Nelson Shanks' portrait of Margaret Thatcher, commissioned by the College of William and Mary

Philly's own Nelson Shanks had an intimate view of Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister who passed away at the age of 87.

Shanks painted Thatcher twice: The first time was for a portrait now hanging at the National Potrait Gallery, while the second was commissioned in 1998 by the College of William and Mary, where Thatcher served as a chancellor from 1993 to 2000.

For the William and Mary portrait, seen above, Shanks sat with Thatcher for 80 hours, as security and her secretary buzzed around her. "I was concentrating on the painting but there were some pretty ominous things going on that had to do with matters of state," Shanks said. At the time, he was also painting Princess Diana.

Throughout their time together, Shanks remembered Thatcher as warm and dignified. "For an elderly woman, she was very beautiful, very dignified. She had skin that was like transparent porcelain," Shanks said. "We just hit it off." He added that he dined with Thatcher and her husband, Denis, and was invited to her 80th birthday party.

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Shanks also brought his children, who were four and six at the time, to London, while painting Thatcher. "I have lot wonderful memories of that. She was terrific with the children," Shanks said.

Shanks is no stranger to painting powerful people, including President Bill Clinton, President Ronald Reagan and opera great Luciano Pavarotti. His most recent work was of the four women of the Supreme Court: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sandra Day O’Connor, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Shanks has, of course, all painted portraits of several people who didn’t have titles but Shanks "would entitle as wonderful and interesting."

Molly Eichel Daily News Staff Writer
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