Summer 2009

Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s Service Commemorated with Portrait

President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg poses next to his official portrait, which was unveiled at GW’s Luther W. Brady Art Gallery May 6.

By Julia Parmley

President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was recognized for 19 years of University service at the unveiling of his official portrait at GW’s Luther W. Brady Art Gallery May 6.
Painted by artist Everett Raymond
Kinstler, the portrait depicts Trachtenberg, now University professor of public service, standing in front of a
column in Kogan Plaza with the tempietto in the background.

At the event, GW President Steven Knapp listed some of the University’s advancements during Trachtenberg’s tenure including increased research
funding, endowment and undergraduate applications as well as the acquisition and
development of GW’s Mount Vernon and Virginia campuses and the creation of five
schools. “The growth of the University under President Trachtenberg’s leadership was
not just physical,” said Dr. Knapp. “The University grew in the breadth of its programs,
its academic stature and its national and international prominence. For all these
achievements and many more, the University will always be deeply grateful, as I am personally.”

In his remarks, Trachtenberg said he was very appreciative of the honor. “I think of the picture as a mosaic,” he said. “A university president does not represent themselves but the institution and what it entails. I’m indebted to the artist to put me in the center of the picture, but this really is a representation of the University over a period of time.”

Kinstler has painted six U.S. presidents, more than 50 cabinet officials, personalities
including Tony Bennett and Katherine Hepburn, and presidents of college and
universities including Yale University and Harvard University. The National Portrait
Gallery has acquired 75 of his original works for its permanent collection and awarded
Kinstler with the Copley Medal, the gallery’s highest honor.

Kinstler said he was commissioned to paint Trachtenberg’s portrait in 2008 and visited GW several times over the course of the year to photograph and sketch Trachtenberg and tour the campus. “It was obvious [Trachtenberg] loved the architecture and associated with several buildings, notably the tempietto,” says Kinstler. “He spoke warmly about the University, its faculty and students and the future of the school. He had visionary ideas, and it was also clear he was a hands-on person with a deep interest in the students.”

Kinstler says he noticed Trachtenberg would greet and be greeted by many students
as they toured the campus and wanted to simultaneously capture the former president’s love for the campus landscape and its people. “My concept was to paint him with a favorite structure and a feeling of the architecture outdoors with color, sun and light,” says Kinstler. “Trachtenberg often stood as I depicted him, with arms folded and a warm expression, wearing a favorite blazer. This was the ‘story’ I wanted to convey.”

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