Burton Silverman, arguably the top newsmaker in the painting world last week, was the artist commissioned to paint the portrait of W. Richard West Jr., the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. The museum, whose spokesperson says they couldn’t find a Native American with similar portraiture skills, paid Silverman over $48,000. According to Silverman, West had seen a portrait Silverman had done of former Smithsonian secretary Robert McCormick Adams and liked his style, but Adams’ portrait, which was much smaller than West’s cost only half as much. His paintings are included in numerous museum collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, Butler Institute of American Art, Delaware Art Museum, New Britain Museum The Philadelphia Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. In 2006, Brigham Young University hosted a retrospective of his work, which traveled to the Butler Institute of American Art and the Lyme Academy College of Fine Art. Silverman is represented by Gallery Henoch in New York. Check out the Washington Post’s story, which has full details about the commission and a jpeg of the portrait.
“In my life’s work, I have tried to reunite form (color and composition) with content (realistic and narrative imagery) to arrive at some kind of synthesis of 20th century formalism with 20th century sensibilities,” Silverman writes on his website. “I don’t believe I am unique in this process. There has been, and continues to be, a flourishing of art that calls itself ‘realist’ but it is pluralistic and diverse in its picture making skills. But in placing renewed emphasis on content, on an emotional and intellectual requisite in image making, I, and fellow like-minded artists, hope that it can bridge the world of appearances and the world of insights and thus reconstitute the authenticity of the visual arts and rescue it from triviality; from ‘sensation’ alone.” Silverman offers summer workshops in July and August at his country studio, about sixty miles north of the city, in the Hudson River Valley.