Bradley Stevens: Portrait Artist, Basketball Player, Rock Star

In 2007, Brad Stevens met Hillary Clinton. Someday, he said, he’d paint her presidential portrait.

She roared with laughter. He was serious.

That’s just one anecdote in a long George Washington Magazine profile of the 1972 Staples High School graduate. He earned a BA from George Washington University in 1976, and an MFA from there 3 years later.

Bradley Stevens' depiction of Vernon Jordan hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. (Photo/GW Magazine)

Bradley Stevens’ depiction of Vernon Jordan hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. (Photo/GW Magazine)

Stevens is now one of America’s leading realist painters. His work — depicting Vernon Jordan, Allen Iverson, Felix Rohatyn, Senator Mark Warner, and dozens of other politicians, financiers, educators and judges — hangs in the Smithsonian, US Capitol, State Department, Mount Vernon and Monticello.

The GW story notes that Stevens has won praise “not just for his original portraiture and sanctioned copies of great works, but also for his landscapes and cityscapes. From the warmth of the sun to a face in the crowd and the visage of a president, he seems to find inspiration equally.”

Stevens says that his fascination with people-watching helps him “seize upon what makes someone special and different.”

The story describes the artist’s youth in Westport, where he inhabited 2 separate worlds: Staples basketball starter (he’s 6-5), and rock guitarist.

Bradley Stevens, at work in his studio. (Photo/GW Magazine)

Bradley Stevens, at work in his studio. (Photo/GW Magazine)

“I’m sure my hometown had an influence on my path toward the arts,” Stevens says. “It’s a culturally progressive place with many New York-based artists, illustrators, writers, actors, musicians and the like.”

At GW he played lead guitar in a comedy band, and received his 1st professional art commission: a caricature of George Washington himself dribbling a basketball on the court of the new Smith Center.

His early career included noted re-creations of the works of Degas, Monet, Manet and others. He’s been commissioned to reproduce famous works, including Gilbert Stuart’s famous full-length portrait of the 1st president (and university namesake).

Based now in Virginia, Stevens says that portrait painters “should have a certain lack of ego.” That’s because their work is entirely about the subject.

Portraits should link the present with the future, he says. Who knows? Maybe the future does include a presidential portrait, done by the talented Bradley Stevens.

(To read the entire story, click here. Hat tip to Jon Fraade.)

Bradley Stevens' mural of the Connecticut Compromise of 1787 hangs in the US Capitol. (Photo/GW Magazine)

Bradley Stevens’ mural of the Connecticut Compromise of 1787 hangs in the US Capitol. (Photo/GW Magazine)

7 responses to “Bradley Stevens: Portrait Artist, Basketball Player, Rock Star

  1. Bradley Stevens painted the portrait of John Branson, former Rector of Christ & Holy Trinity Church, which hangs in the Branson Hall at the church. The family were long members of the church and his mother, Doris, head of our Altar Guild for many years.

  2. Well, I’m ready for a Hilary presidential portrait.

  3. I love you, Dan! If not for you, how would I ever hear these kind of in-depth stories about so many of my former Staples classmates? This is a great piece on Brad. So glad he’s getting such well-deserved recognition. We went to school together–for a while he lived near the intersection of Whitney & Roseville, right down the street from where I grew up. Then his family moved to a road off Cross Highway, near Christie’s. I ran into him in the late 80’s at Georgetown University when I was a student there. I asked him if he was still playing basketball. (I think he was the tallest guy in our class.) That’s when he told me he was an artist. I had no idea at that time how good a one he would become. His work is stunning.

  4. Jo Ann Davidson

    Brad’s mother, Doris Stevens, was a respected Westport teacher at Bedford Middle School . She was active in the Women’s Club and lived and served on the board of the Saugatuck until she moved to Ohio two years ago. I’m sure her Westport friends share her pride in Brad’s accomplishments.

    Jo Ann Davidson

  5. Dan, thanks for the terrific story about Brad. He was a great teammate at Staples with a solid work ethic. That approach mixed with his artistic talents has produced some fantastic paintings. Congrats to Brad!