Posthumous Portraits

Thomas Nash is best known for his portraits of living subjects such as Zell Miller, Newt Gingrich, Sam Nunn, Ivan Allen Jr., and other prominent individuals. A less well known but equally important type of painting that he is often called upon to create is the posthumous portrait.

While many artists do not care to paint posthumous portraits, Tom not only excels at this specialty but finds it to be a very gratifying experience. Because of Nash's vast experience in working from the live model, it is difficult to distinguish those portraits that were of necessity done posthumously. He takes pride in being able to bring a sense of life to all of his paintings.

To Tom a posthumous portrait deserves every bit as much consideration and thought as one done from a living subject. He is not only interested in the subject's facial features and coloring, but also their spirit which will be manifested in their posture, mannerisms, gestures and expressions.


The procedure for creating a posthumous portrait is similar in some regards to two other categories of portraits, the 'surprise' portrait, when the subject although alive, is not involved in the process; and what might be called the 'roll back the clock' portrait, when the subject is alive but a portrait which captures them at an earlier time is desired.

Whether the portrait is a public or private commission, if at all possible Tom first wants to meet with the loved ones, those who were closest to the person he will paint. In any commission there is some criteria as to the size and scope of the painting. This may be determined by where the painting will be hung.

It is not necessary that the family members and friends come up with a photograph which completely captures the subject in all ways. This is highly unlikely anyway. Tom will visualize what would be the ideal portrait of the individual from what he learns about them. Then he will pour over all of the reference material that is available and make it happen.

Sometimes everyone is in agreement that a particular photo really captures the spirit and facial expression of the individual yet nothing else about the photo is appropriate for the portrait. This is when an artist of Tom's experience and capability is most needed. Tom has removed hats from heads, changed the clothes, the pose and the lighting to create a lasting work of art that is both accurate and sensitive.

Tom will often paint a specific outdoor background when a posthumous subject was noted for their outdoor activities. He will use manikins and paint on location rather than 'make it up' in the studio. This gives an extra degree of realism to the work. Often he will seek out a brother or sister or family member who is said to have similar coloring to aid him in accurately capturing his subject. When available he will borrow the subject's clothing. If not he will obtain whatever clothing or props are necessary to create his painting. For historical paintings he might borrow clothing from costume shops.

It might be said that what separates Tom from many other artists is his willingness to leave no stone unturned in his quest to recreate a sensitive and accurate portrayal of all of his subjects.

The list of posthumous portraits Nash has painted over the years is extensive. The following are just a few examples of what went in to making some of them.


Fritz Orr


Tucker civil war era portraits

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