Tag Archives: Bradley Stevens

Bradley Stevens Paints Washington’s Interior

Like the rest of President Obama’s cabinet, Sally Jewell is gone.

But — at least in the Department of Interior’s Washington, DC office — she will never be forgotten.

That’s because her portrait now hangs there, alongside her 50 predecessors.

It’s a non-traditional painting. And it’s of “06880” interest because the artist is Staples Class of 1972 graduate Bradley Stevens.

A Wrecker basketball star (and rock guitarist) who earned both a BA and MFA from George Washington University in 1976, Stevens is 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, judges and sports figures — hangs in the Smithsonian, US Capitol, State Department, Mount Vernon and Monticello.

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

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

His Sally Jewell commission came on the recommendation of collectors of his work in Seattle, who knew her. Her previous job was CEO of REI, based in that city.

Last April, Stevens met the secretary at Interior headquarters. Over the next 8 months, as he worked on the portrait, they met many times in his studio.

Stevens hiked with Jewell in the Cascades. “Luckily,” he says, the experienced outdoorswoman — who has climbed Antarctica’s highest peak — “chose a more moderate mountain.”

He posed her on the Manassas battlefield in Virginia — near Stevens’ home — at sunrise, to get the right light.

“It’s not your typical government portrait,” Stevens says. “The landscape plays a prominent role in the composition.”

But, he says, because as head of the National Park Service — and because of her love of the outdoors — he thought it was important to paint her in front of Mt. Rainier. It’s an iconic image of her home town, and she’s reached its summit 7 times.

Jewell — who as secretary helped expose underprivileged young people to the environment — asked Stevens to include Youth Conservation Corps volunteers on the trail behind her.

In the portrait, she wears silver tribal jewelry. That symbolizes her efforts to protect Native American sacred lands.

Sally Jewell's official portrait, by Bradley Stevens.

Sally Jewell’s official portrait, by Bradley Stevens.

The painting was unveiled at the Department of the Interior on January 13. There was a big ceremony, with many speakers.

Stevens says, “It was an honor to get to know Secretary Jewell. She is passionate and driven about her work protecting our nation’s lands.”

She is also “a humble and self-effacing public servant. It was never about attracting attention to herself. Her focus was solely on doing the right things for the environment. This experience restored my faith in government.”

President Trump has nominated Montana congressman Ryan Zinke to replace Jewell. A frequent voter against environmentalists on issues ranging from coal extraction to oil and gas drilling, he received a 3 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters.

 

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)