Notable art collectors, financier Ian Cumming and his wife Annette commissioned the 9-foot-6-inch by 7-foot-9-inch oil painting by Nelson Shanks. The Cummings have loaned their grand-scale painting to Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery for three years began on October 28, until 2016.
“The scale of this painting speaks to the grand accomplishments made by these four women and the example they set for future generations,” said Kim Sajet, director of the museum. “I imagine this portrait will spark a conversation among young people, particularly young women, about breaking barriers.”
Nelson Shanks have other portraits hanging in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and they are a portrait of President Reagan created in 1989, President Bill Clinton in 2005, and with a portrait of African-American mezzo-soprano opera singer Denyce Graves on loan.
O’Connor (born 1930), a graduate of Stanford Law School, she became the first woman to become a Supreme Court Judge in 1981. Ronald Reagan nominated her as an associate justice, while she was serving on the Arizona Court of Appeals. O’Connor retired from the Court in 2006.
Ginsburg (born 1933) graduated from Columbia Law School. Bill Clinton nominated her, in 1993, at the time she was serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia. Ginsburg has served on the Supreme Court for over 20 years.
Sotomayor (born 1954) graduated from Yale Law School. Barack Obama nominated her in 2009. When she was serving on the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sotomayor is the first Latino to serve on the Supreme Court.
Kagan (born 1960) graduated from Harvard Law School, and she was Barack Obama’s solicitor general when she was nominated to serve on the Supreme Court in 2010. Kagan served as a clert to a judge and a professor of Law.
Artist, Nelson Shanks, used traditional methods from the 17th-century Old Dutch Master techniques used in group portraiture; therefore, he preferred using actual live models in the creation of this historic painting.
The “Four Justices” completed in 2012 was an enormous task; although, there were conflicting schedules, for a live sitting in his studio, it was difficult, but well worth it.
Nelson Shanks noted, “If you can imagine a portrait painting, no matter how facile, if it doesn’t show personality, something is missing,” and “Representation of character is really what counts to me.”