The National Portraits Gallery‘s exhibition of treasures from Washington private collections features very personal works loaned by more than 50 of the city’s most prominent residents. Washington Life visited with a few of them before the show’s April 8th opening.
Edited by Kevin Chaffee Photos by Tony Powell
“Andy and I were very comfortable with each other, having become friends while traveling together on the Concord to Paris, going to Studio 54 – then the place to go in New York – and sharing many other adventures. Still, when he suggested the portrait and told me how to prepare I was really excited, but a bit nervous. We were alone in the big room in the Factory where I was comfortably stretched out on a chaise longue, shoes off, entirely without makeup and covered with a heavy white foundation. My face was a blank to be painted by Andy the way he saw it. To keep me at ease, we chatted all the way through his snapping Polaroid pictures and occasionally telling me to change my pose. You did not sit for your portrait, you were photographed for it. I kept the Polaroids he took. I am happy I did.” – Ina Ginsberg
“My husband and I were immediately drawn to this lovely painting, viewed one evening on the far wall of a New York gallery. The room was filled with the buzz of a classic “preview” that night, but only this piece drew us in. We remain intimately attached to it and can imagine the Paris studio where two young women sat to create this painting in the avant-garde spirit of Impressionism. We love the soft, simple strength of the subject’s demeanor – self-possessed, inquisitive and beautiful – and the embracing subtlety of Mary Cassatt’s straightforward composition, fluid brushstroke and rich, velvety color. As gardeners, we also love the pop of pink roses on the chapeau! And, being parents of a boy and two girls, we love the fact that a very independent American woman painted this piece over 100 years ago. Susan in Toque Trimmed with Roses, a warm and welcome addition to our family, now graces our living room in Washington.” – Joan Carl
“My grandfather was an enthusiastic amateur painter, unbothered by any public evaluation of his talent. He simply enjoyed the process of painting and producing what he called his “daubs,” which he gave to family members, friends and associates. I well remember standing behind him while he sized up his subject, painting from small photographs he’d selected for attention. He loved working with colors. On a few occasions he gave me his work, straight off the easel. Ike painted my grandmother many times. It was not untypical for him to choose a subject or a pose that would highlight a time, an image or an object that connected him to his subject or recipient. He also painted many of his wartime colleagues, including a fine portrait of Winston Churchill. The British prime minister was also an amateur painter and the two of them swapped their work during Ike’s White House years. Perhaps the best portrait Ike ever painted was of Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery. This handsome, sympathetic rendering now hangs in the British Embassy Residence in Washington.” – Susan Eisenhower
“Freddy has always loved this bust of his father as a pensive five year old. At some point we ended up with this top hat that belonged to Freddy’s grandfather, so we dressed him up in it. We think it gives the bust a rather jaunty and festive air. Hopefully Paul Manship would have approved. “ – Diana Prince
“I had been in New York co-anchoring “CBS Morning News” with Hughes Rudd. We were outrageous and irreverent and the show just didn’t work. It was an immediate disaster, but that’s what Andy liked about it. He was part of a cult who watched it. It was canceled after six months. Later, when I wrote my book, Washingtonian magazine did a story on it and commissioned him to do a cover portrait. When I went to New York to pose for it, Andy photographed me in white makeup It wasn’t very intense, just very easy and casual.
Andy died about six months later and I called his executor, Fred Hughes, to enquire about buying it. That’s when I found out about the second portrait and the four collages. I bought all of them with my book money. I didn’t want to be too show-offy by having them downstairs in my house, so I hung the collages in my third floor office. The orange oil went over the mantel in Ben’s office and the yellow oil went to my apartment in New York.
When I look at them now, I like the collages better – they are much more imaginative. He caught my ironic edge, a certain tilt to my mouth, that allowed me to discover something about myself that I hadn’t seen before. They also make me think of Andy and that makes me laugh because he was one of the few who actually liked our awful TV show. He got that we were being outrageous.” – Sally Quinn