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 Nelson Shanks  (1937 - )

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania      Known for: realism portrait, interiors and figure painting

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Ad Code: 4
Nelson Shanks
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Nelson Shanks is a portrait painter, with one his most famous works being his portrait of Princess Diana, The Princess of Wales, completed in 1996. For this Diana sat for more than 35 hours, and he spent another 100 hours on its completion. Among his other famous subjects are Ronald Reagan, Luciano Pavarotti, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, Pope John Paul II, the King and Queen of Sweden and Queen Juliana of the Netherlands. In addition, Shanks does figure paintings, many of them of enigmatic seeming women whose expressions raise questions, whose props include still life, and whose depictions have varying textures, lighting effects and colors.

Shanks has spent his career as a spokesperson for Realism.  Of this dedication he says: "Nature Perceived is the bedrock of realism.  The inspiration of nature as source is meaningful, profound, beautiful, logical, and complex, and can be understood on progressively deeper levels. . . .Nothing could be more vital or relevant to the future of civilization than creating art that people can relate to their visual and emotional experience."

He has had challenges because of coming of age during the 1950s when abstraction was so dominant.  He was raised in Rochester, New York; and studied art at the University of Kansas; the Kansas City Art Institute with Wilbur Niewald; the Art Students League with Ivan Olinsky, Robert Brackman and Edwin Dickinson; the National Academy of Design; and privately with John Koch and Henry Hensche.  Then he had a long period of study in Florence, Italy, first at the Accademia delle Belli Arti and then alongside Pietro Annigoni.

He traveled extensively around Europe and was much impressed by the enduring power of humanism and also by the obvious dedication and hard work of the Old Masters to achieve the qualities of their painting. Taking his painting very seriously, Shanks tries to work at least 60 hours a week.  His studio is in his home, an historic mansion overlooking the Delaware River near Philadelphia.  In this setting, he has amassed a collection of Old Master paintings.

He has taught regularly in workshops in New York , Philadelphia, Washington and Chicago, but in 2002, founded Studio Incamminati with his wife, Leona.  Named for the Academy in Italy founded by Carraci in 1582, it is a school where students can come to him for rigorous training in drawing and painting from life with a curriculum that merges classical traditions of the Italian Academy and the Ecole des Beaux Arts of France with contemporary applications.

Shanks is an honorary member of the American Society of Classical Realism Guild of Artists.  In the fall of 2011, he Shanks had an exhibition of his paintings in Russia at the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg and the Russian Academy of Arts in Moscow.

Peter Trippi, "Nelson Shanks, An American Realist Heads to Russia", Fine Art Connoisseur, June 2011, pp. 38-42

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