“My travels since leaving the army . . . ” Colin Powell notes in his autobiography, My American Journey, “have deepened my love for our country and our people. It is a love full of pride for our virtues and with patience for our failings.” Powell, a career soldier who rose to the highest level of the United States military—from 1989 to 1993 he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—has never stopped traveling, and he has always risen to the challenges issued to him by the country he loves. After leaving the army in 1993, Powell later served as Secretary of State during the first administration of President George W. Bush.
On Sunday, December 2, 2012, Colin Powell’s portrait was added to the collection of the National Portrait Gallery and unveiled in a special ceremony which included an interview with National Public Radio’s Michele Norris. In preliminary comments before the unveiling, NPG Commission Chairman Jack Watson stated, “The remarkable story of General Colin Powell is one of the nation’s great stories… he is the Cincinnatus of our time.”
Powell was painted by artist Ronald Sherr, who is also responsible for NPG’s portrait of President George H. W. Bush, acquired in 1995. Sherr’s portrait of Powell is no small work—it measures 92 1/2 by 51 ¾ inches; the artist portrays the general standing in front of Theodore Roosevelt Hall at the National War College at Fort McNair in Washington D. C.
Though Sherr resides in Hong Kong, the painting was completed during several life sittings and with the aid of photographs taken by the artist. General Powell noted of the work, “People will be coming to the National Portrait Gallery and seeing this picture of me, but what they will be seeing is Ron’s artistry and his brilliance.”
—Warren Perry, Catalog of American Portraits, National Portrait Gallery
Gen. Colin Powell / Ronald N. Sherr / Oil on canvas, 2012 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; supported by a grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and by the Marc Pachter Commissioning Fund