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James Anthony Wills

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Name  James Wills

James Anthony Wills James Anthony Wills 1912 AMERICAN GALLERY 20th Century

James Anthony Wills (born 1912 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American painter. He worked only in oils and never had any formal art training.


James Anthony Wills James Anthony Wills 1912 AMERICAN GALLERY 20th Century

Early years

Wills could draw before he could write. At age 8, Wills started with tempera, watercolor and pastels, and later chose oils. His choice of oils was based on the masters' use of oils and its stability over time. He never used canvas. Masonite was used instead as it does not deteriorate like canvas. Wills sold his first portrait of a neighborhood friend to the boy's mother when he was 14.

Painter of Presidents and other political figures

He has painted cabinet members including George C. Marshall, Secretary of Defense, C. E. Wilson, Secretary of Defense, and Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State. However, his greater works are his long list of Presidential Portraits. He has painted Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Richard Nixon. Along the stairway to the East Room hang the portraits of 20th century Presidents. Displayed here are Wills' Harry Truman and Richard Nixon

Other notable portraits

Wills' works were often commissioned by large firms. He had a way of capturing the likeness and 'realness' of a person especially as seen in the hands. "Everyone has a best angle, though, and my job is to analyze what these angles are. if posed properly, a person can be made a handsome figure. A person is entitled to this." - Wills. Additional portraits include: successful individuals such as golfer Ben Hogan, Indianapolis 500 Speedway owner Anton Hulman Jr., Detroit Tigers Baseball Club owner Walter Briggs, Jr., Philip Wrigley of Wrigley Gum Company, Clark Hungerford, railroad executive and Bessie Mae Pederson (wife of Roy Pederson) of Houston, Texas

He did not work by first-come, first-served. Instead he grouped them geographically throughout the country. He also favored the significance of events such as a portrait unveiling. This could be the focus of an anniversary, banquet, etc., and would be pushed to the top of the list even if it was the last one commissioned. If asked, Wills would also take photographs of his subject if the client would not like to do a life sitting the entire time. He charged about $7,500 for a life sitting self-portrait. He often had a large role in what his clients would wear. He would look in their wardrobe and pick out something in fashion at the time and would be two decades later. This would usually only be with the woman who have high taste in Dior and high fashion clothes that would go out of style in 2 to 3 years. He would even go shopping with his clients to help them pick something appropriate. Once completed James Wills would personally accompany his work to its final destination.


James Anthony Wills Wikipedia