Wilmette artist paints South African archbishop

May 2, 2008 3:58:12 PM PDT
Marla Friedman spends some time getting to know her subjects. One of her most recent portraits is that of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. "I've learned that he has a tremendous sense of humor and of course, incredibly compassionate," said Friedman.

The portrait will be presented to Tutu as he receives an award from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation in Chicago later this month. It will hang in the Lincoln Library in Springfield.

"It's a dream project for a portraitist," said Friedman.

However, the project did have its challenges. She normally paints live subjects. However, there was no time to arrange a meeting with the archbishop. Instead, she found a photo of Tutu on the internet that she used as a guide. She then researched his life, which includes his fight against apartheid in South Africa and a Nobel Peace Prize.

"It's a real responsibility to try and communicate who this person is through a painting," said Friedman.

Friedman's career as a portrait artist spans more than 20-years. Her subjects range from politicians to restaurateurs. They also include family members, like her mother, and one of her greatest influences, French portrait artist Leon Bonnat.

"The exciting part for me is building up from the base of the painting and then finding the subtle nuances of the expression," said Friedman.

Friedman will meet Archbishop Tutu at the portrait presentation. She said she hopes to paint him in person at that point.


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