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
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.