Tags: Ross Rossin | Artist | Ronald Reagan | Thomas Jefferson

After Reagan, Artist Rossin Turns His Brush Toward Jefferson

By David Wright and Kathleen Walter   |   Saturday, 16 Apr 2011 11:45 AM

Celebrated artist Ross Rossin, whose acclaimed portrait of President Ronald Reagan graced the cover of Newsmax in February, is poised to tackle what he sees as his toughest challenge yet: Thomas Jefferson.

He plans to begin work soon on a major painting of America's third president, he revealed in an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV.

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After finishing his breathtaking portrait of Reagan – which marked the 100th anniversary of the 40th president’s birth – Rossin admitted that he brings such intensity to his work that his canvas becomes “a battlefield.”

And now he’s going to “war” again.

“I feel ready to attack Jefferson,” he said. “And I really say ‘attack’, because he is a battle and a challenge.

“Jefferson is something else: so complex, controversial and much bigger in life than anyone else.”

Rossin, 46, whose studio is in Atlanta, has painted more than 350 portraits of world leaders and movie and sports figures. His dramatic portraits sell for up to $200,000 and his rendering of President George H.W. Bush has pride of place in Bush’s presidential library in Texas.

In a fascinating discussion during a visit to Newsmax headquarters in West Palm Beach, Fla., he agreed to talk about the background to some of his favorite classic portraits.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: “I wanted to present a much more human Lincoln,” he said. “It’s all about the complexity of his character. I wanted to go beyond the legendary image to see how normal, how real he was.”

Rossin grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Bulgaria and came to the United States in 2001, where he’s now a recent proud citizen.

And he was helped in capturing Lincoln, he said, because through his own experiences “I could relate to his drama and disappointments and moments of melancholy and depression – and the victorious moments too.”

THEODORE ROOSEVELT: His biggest challenge, he says, was to avoid repeating the many earlier portraits of T.R.

But the answer came to him as he lunched with an official of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, who commissioned the picture.

“It came to me right there – Roosevelt needed to come to us in the 21st century instead of me trying to re-enact and study him back in his own time.

“He was such a visionary he could tell us a lot right now in this century. And I wanted to capture him up close and personal like never before.”

NELSON MANDELA: Rossin’s portrait of the South African leader drew the admiration of President Bill Clinton when he was shown it during a recent visit to Newsmax.

“He was really impressed,” said Rossin. “His favorite people of recent history are Mandela and Yitzhak Rabin, and I happen to have done both those paintings.

“Mandela is certainly the greatest human being of our time, and the message he conveys through his gaze and his whole character and presence is in the painting.”

JACKIE KENNEDY ONASSIS: The biggest difficulty he had, says Rossin, was to try to get close to the real Jackie, “yet emphasize that almost invisible glass wall that exists between the viewer and her persona.

“She remains at the same time distant and iconic.

“The message in the portrait is, ‘no matter how close you get to me – you are still far away.”

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