Nelson Shanks, painter of presidents and royalty, dies at 77

 Portrait artist Nelson Shanks paints a one-hour portrait for a live audience in Philadelphia in 2013. (Charlie Kaier/WHYY)

Portrait artist Nelson Shanks paints a one-hour portrait for a live audience in Philadelphia in 2013. (Charlie Kaier/WHYY)

Nelson Shanks, renowned for his portraits of prominent figures ranging from presidents to royalty, has died. He was 77.

Shanks died Friday at his home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, according to Bill Wedo, spokesman for the Studio Incamminati art school Shanks founded with his wife, Leona.

Shanks painted well-known figures such as Princess Diana, Pope John Paul II and presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

The artist and his portrait of Clinton made news earlier this year when he told the Philadelphia Daily News that he included a subtle reference to Monica Lewinsky in the work.

Shanks told the paper that a shadow beside Clinton is a literal reference to Lewinsky’s infamous blue dress and a symbolic nod to the shadow the affair cast on his presidency.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.