Nelson Shanks painted two portraits of President Ronald Reagan just after the end of his second term in office, with sittings starting in the spring of 1989. The larger of the two works, dated 1990, was painted for the Union League of Philadelphia and depicts the then-79-year-old former President standing in the Oval Office next to a Remington bronze (an allusion to Reagan’s own connection to the West). The other portrait, now in the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.,1
is a bust length version of that composition, dated May 4, 1989, that served as an initial template for the half-length canvas in Philadelphia. The present painting shows the President in a more informal attitude, his head cocked and turned to the left. It was painted over two sittings, as the artist worked through his thoughts on a final composition for the finished portraits. It is naturally more freely painted and captures somewhat Reagan’s signature affable nature.
1. Oil on canvas, 20 ¼ by 20 ¼ in. Inv. NPG.2007.3 https://npg.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.2007.3