National Portrait Gallery/Business Insider Nelson Shanks' portrait of President Bill Clinton with an arrow identifying a shadow the artist says is a reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Monica Lewinsky may have literally cast a shadow over a portrait of President Bill Clinton that is in the National Portrait Gallery.
In an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News published Sunday, artist Nelson Shanks, who painted the picture, said he sneaked a reference to the scandal over Clinton's affair with Lewinsky into the portrait.
"The reality is he's probably the most famous liar of all time. He and his administration did some very good things, of course, but I could never get this Monica thing completely out of my mind and it is subtly incorporated in the painting," Shanks said.
According to Shanks, a shadow visible next to Clinton in the portrait came from a blue dress he placed on a mannequin near the canvas when it was being painted. The artist said this was meant as a reference to the infamous dress Lewinsky wore during one of her trysts with the president.
"If you look at the left-hand side of it there's a mantle in the Oval Office and I put a shadow coming into the painting and it does two things," Shanks said. "It actually literally represents a shadow from a blue dress that I had on a mannequin, that I had there while I was painting it, but not when he was there. It is also a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him."
Shanks also said Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were aware of his scandal reference and wanted to hide the portrait.
"And so the Clintons hate the portrait," Shanks said. "They want it removed from the National Portrait Gallery. They're putting a lot of pressure on them."
Bethany Bentley, head of communications and public affairs at the National Portrait Gallery, told Business Insider the Clintons had not asked to have the portrait taken down.
"That's not true. I can tell you that," Bentley said in a phone conversation.
Bentley said Shanks' picture was "currently not on view," but she attributed this to the fact the gallery had about 55 paintings and photos of Clinton that were continually rotated.
"It's been off view for a little while and it's something that the Portrait Gallery rotates through lots of portraits and photos of President Clinton," Bentley said, adding, "right now, we have a long-term loan on view."
Representatives for Hillary Clinton, who is widely expected to be preparing a 2016 presidential bid, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this story from Business Insider.
This post was updated at 11:40 a.m. with Bentley's comments.
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