George Pollard Portrait Artist of the Famous

by Huetta H. Mannion

"Historian" is a title George Pollard , portrait artist to the famous, never professed or sought, but it is correct.

His commissions have led him to sketch or paint portraits of six U.S. Presidents, including Kennedy, Truman and Reagan, four Governors, film stars including Bette Davis and Bob Hope and TV favorite Oprah Winfrey. Sports personalities he has done include Mohammad Ali, Brett Favre, Vince Lombardi, Bob Lanier (Hall of Fame) and Henry Aaron. Perhaps most distinguished of his portraits is that of Pope John Paul II. "In fifty years of painting I have done about 5,000 portraits," Pollard notes he has more portaits in the Washington, D.C., government buildings than any other single artist. These include several Supreme Court Chief Justices, among them the current head of court, Willim O.Renquist. He is currently completing the painting of Chief of the Air Force General Ronald Fogleman. Each portrait reflects life in the history of peoples of the world. Pollard, now 77, began his portrait career while a Marine buck private in the South Pacific during World War II. "I didn't think I would get home alive," he said when recalling the fierce battles at Tarawa and Truk. His drawing ability came to the attention of his superiors who soon worked out a plan for him to portray "heros" for pictures to be relayed to the U.S. press. They were used to encourage patriotism and to sell War Bonds.

When Eleanor Rooselvelt made a rare trip to Australia, Pollard was ordered to do her portrait. He did and she loved it and hung the picture in the White House. When Gen Douglas MacArthur returned to the Phillipines, Pollard was told to do his portrait. "I kept photo copies of each of these," Pollard notes. "Funny thing," he remembers, "Suddenly I no longer had KP or guard duty, and I got promoted to Staff Sargeant."

MARIO ANDRETTI 24 X 20 inches CHARCOAL

MERLIN OLSEN 24 X 20 inches CHARCOAL

Now firmly set upon a course of portraiture as a profession, Pollard returned to the states and chose to live in Kenosha, Wi., with this wife Nan, herself an illutrator of children's books. There they raised their four children, all of whom have since become professionals in the art field. Remembering the wounded and disabled from the War, George and Nan prepared greeting cards sold primarily at military installations. "We would design a simple image, a caricature representing holiday themes. Hospitalized veterans would color the images with "paints and brushes supplied for that purpose," Nan says. Each veteran received a fee for each card he colored. "It was encouraging to see the boys relate to the jobs. It was something positive to do. For those with minimal coordination we made images that required only a color swatch." Frequently asked is "how did you come to do the portrait of the Pope? "I was recommended," answers Pollard with a smile, "by Mother Teresa." He qualifies that by telling ˇ how he had done a sketch and montage of Mother Teresa while she was at Marquette University to receive an honorary degree. One print found its way to the Vatican. On the basis of that rendering he was contacted to do various Vatican officials. When he was asked to paint the Pope, Pollard decided to confide in Cardinal Chiappi, the Pope's Theological Secretary. "I'm not Catholic, will that make a difference?" The Cardinal quickly responded "No..just paint Catholic." A chapter in a coming book about Pollard will be titled "Painting Catholic" .

POPE JOHN PAUL II 40 X 26 inches OIL

Huetta H. Manion has been the director of the Landmarks Gallery Inc., in Milwaukee,Wisconsin for 30 years.

ŠThe Fine Arts Trader 2009