Thomas painting draws national attention after Trump interview

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Carthage Artist Andy Thomas stands in his studio with the latest paintings in his series about the Presidents. The Republican Club is on top and the Democratic Club is on the bottom. President Donald Trump called Thomas personally to congratulate him on the painting back in August. John Hacker / The Carthage Press

The latest painting in Carthage Artist Andy Thomas’ series of paintings of the Presidents is getting new attention after it made an appearance in the background of a television interview with President Donald Trump.

The painting shows Trump, drinking a diet Coke, with ex-presidents Abraham Lincoln, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, both George Bushes, Ronald Reagan and others. 

It was shown on a wall in the background of an interview by Reporter Leslie Stahl of Trump on Sunday during the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes.

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Thomas pointed it out in a post to his Facebook page on Sunday and has since done a number of interviews about the painting’s appearance on national television.

It’s the second time in a few weeks the painting has garnered national attention.

Back in August, Trump called Thomas to compliment him on the painting after Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Ca., showed it to him in the Oval office.

Thomas had painted a portrait of Issa in the past and the two have kept in touch.

Thomas said at that time getting a call from the President himself was a first, and something of a shock.

“He was very gracious, very complimentary,” Thomas said.

“He said I’m in the Oval Office here with Darrell Issa, whom you know, and I’m with Vice President Pence too. Apparently, it was on speaker phone on their side as well. He just said Darrell has shown me this painting and the first thing he said was ‘I’ve seen a lot of paintings of me and I rarely like them, but I really like this one, you did a great job.’”

Third in a series

Thomas said the painting, which he named The Republican Club, features the Republican Presidents sitting around and talking about the competition. A companion painting, called the Democratic Club, features Barak Obama and a group of Democratic Presidents in similar fashion, talking over drinks about the Republicans.

This pair is the third pair in a series that Thomas has painted since 2008. The first pair were the Grand Old Gang and True Blue, with the Presidents playing cards together.

The second pair of paintings had the Presidents playing pool together. 

Thomas said the paintings have gained national attention.

“I bet you 75 percent of the population of the country has seen the images and would recognize them,” Thomas said. “And not one percent of the population knows my name or knows what I look like. Which is kind of good, that’s the way it’s supposed to me.”

Thomas said despite the partisan rancor the paintings seem to generate on social media these days, the paintings were supposed to show all the Presidents in a positive light.

“It’s supposed to be a real good feeling painting,” Thomas said. “I’ll tell you an example why I did that, In the original color study for Grand Old Gang, I had Nixon sitting next to Teddy Roosevelt and I had Roosevelt giving him a good brotherhood slap on the back to Nixon. 

“In the color study I had Nixon paranoid and guarding his cards. I laughed, but then it kept bothering me and I said, no, I’m not going to do anything like that. I’m going to show every President as good looking as I can, and as happy as I can, and I don’t want to have any editorializing on their personalities or anything like that. 

“Last year, Dina and I went to Marshfield, where they have a Cherry Blossom festival and they have relatives of the Presidents there and we sat at a music show and it turned out Richard Nixon’s niece was sitting behind us. She had a copy hanging in her living room and I told her that story, and she said that’s why I like the painting. That was my Uncle Dick and we remember him as a fun and loving Uncle. She’s probably had to endure all these caricatures of her Uncle for all these years, so that had been my thought. I don’t want to put a negative light on anyone if I can help it. They are supposed to be feel-good pictures.”

In the background

Thomas said the latest set of paintings features things the observant might notice in the background.

While some of the heavyweight presidents are gathered around the main table in the foreground, the background features a crowd and in each crowd are some of the lesser known Republican or Democratic presidents from years gone by.

“They’re not portraits,” Thomas said. “I didn’t want to distract from the rest of the painting, but they’re almost a blur image of what they look like. They’re in the crowd. They’re down at the Republican Club or the Democratic Club.”

Also, in the background of each painting, a female figure can be seen walking toward the main table.

Thomas said he meant that as a hint of the change that’s coming.

“I didn’t want it to be a good-old-boys club because there are so many women in politics now,” he said. “So, I had it in my mind I was going to put a woman in there, so I started painting one in and then I thought this would be a woman walking over to take her place at the table, and it would be the first Republican female president or first Democrat female president.

“As I was doing all these powerful men, I thought, wow, I would be intimidated walking up to a table like that. I know I would, but you know what, my daughter Jenny (Brust) wouldn’t, and (former British Prime Minister) Margaret Thatcher wouldn’t have any trouble walking up there. And whoever’s going to be the first Republican female president or vice versa, they’re not going to have any trouble walking up there and saying move over boys.”

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