Friday, March 10, 2017

President, Governor, and Ambassador

The appointment of the present Governor of Iowa, Hon. Terry Branstad, to become Ambassador to China reminded me that I had the privilege of painting his portrait about ten years ago when he was President of Des Moines University.

Mr. Branstad seems a natural for the ambassadorial position given that he has known the current leader of China, Xi Jinping, for more than 30 years. In 1985, Mr. Xi was a member of a trade delegation that spent quite some time in Iowa, studying American agriculture. While here Mr. Xi and Mr. Branstad (who was a young governor at the time) became friends. Their relationship prospered over the years as they met in China several times to discuss trade. Not long ago, Mr. Xi expressed his pleasure at Mr. Branstad's appointment, referring to him as "an old friend" several times. Governor Branstad eventually retired from the governorship in 1998 after an unprecedented 16 years in office. In 2003 he became president of DMU. At the time and for several years afterward Mr. Branstad seemed content to be out of politics, but in 2009 Mr. Branstad was lured back to the arena to run for governor, despite his highly-successful tenure as university president. He won that election, and was re-elected four years later, making him the longest-serving state governor in United States history. When the confirmation process by the U.S. Senate is completed he will become the new ambassador to China.

During Mr. Branstad's tenure as DMU president, the University wanted an official portrait, and I was fortunate enough to receive the commission. Mr. Branstad sat for the portrait twice and for reference photos several times during late 2006, and the painting was finished and unveiled (left) in 2007, about a year before his second foray into the political arena.
My usual practice in making portraits is to do preliminary structural sketches plus a full-color oil sketch to study skin tones and so forth. A 9x12 oil sketch from that session (left) was eventually given to Governor Branstad and his wife, Chris.

In order to show his previous gubernatorial service as well has his tenure as University President, I included the golden dome of the Iowa Capitol and the ten-story University Clinic. The portrait is displayed in the University Library's Rare Books Room.







Terry Branstad, President of DMU 2003-2009


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