The Goldberg Variations sounded faintly in the large open hall of Freeman’s Auction house at 18th and Chestnut on Monday evening. Painter Nelson Shanks worked in front of a live Philadelphia audience for about one hour to produce a finished portrait of his subject, Lt. General Ronald Coleman, USMC.
In a burst of energy, Shanks’s canvas filled with strokes and an outline emerged of a man in earnest attention. The painter’s hand flicked and twitched into position. Every mark was preceded by a series of rehearsed motions and phantom lines just above the canvas to determine how oil and brush become image.
A half hour into the process, the painter broke his silence to assure the general that they would soon be taking a break. Coleman replied, “It has been an honor.”