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Sharon Sprung, 1953 | Figurative painter

Sharon Sprung is a Brooklyn based award-winning artist who studied at Cornell, The Art Students League in New York and the National Academy of Design.
Apart from her creative practice, Sprung also teaches painting and drawing at National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts and The Art Students League.
Her work has won numerous awards and is featured in prominent public collections, including the United States House of Representatives, Bell Laboratories, ATandT, Princeton University, Sherman and Sterling and the Chase Manhattan Bank.

Artist's Statement

"My paintings are a carefully observed negotiation, manipulated layer upon layer in order to create a work of art as equivalent as possible to the complexity of real life.
They are an attempt to control the almost uncontrollable substance that is oil paint, and the equally untamable expression of the human condition.
Pushing around puddles of this almost living substance, I am endlessly defining and redefining the craft of oil painting to fabricate an animated, breathing image grounded in the recognizable and familiar.

Since I am purposefully involved with the contemporary world, I always seek to merge it with a surface that is at once abstractly patterned and textured, and that combines a meticulous respect for realism with the power of the personal image to speak a universal language.
I want the subject and its environment to collide through the use of echo and repetition to form a united composition.

We are constantly bombarded visually and I hope to infuse my work with a way of engaging the viewer that is both evocatively silent and powerfully commanding.
The artists I have been most influenced by are quite diverse: Caravaggio, Velazquez, Egon Schiele and Kathe Kollwitz.

Their paintings share both a profound respect and reverence for the individual with the power and the wisdom to explore those themes that haunt us: man's strength, resilience and sensuality, together with the possession of an almost shocking clarity in this pursuit.
I believe in the transformative powers of painting: that the luminosity of pigment and medium is as manifest as the surface of the soul".


Sprung started teaching at the Art Student League of New York in 2004.
In her classes, she often performs a demonstration in which she finishes a portrait and explains the process over the course of a semester.
She encourages students to devote more of their class time looking at the model for their portraits than actually painting, to avoid self-criticism, and refrain from naming individual parts of the subject.
She is also a long-time teacher at the National Academy School, and received a Lifetime Achievement award from its museum.
Though known primarily as a painter, she also teaches drawing.

Michelle Obama portrait

Sprung was commissioned to paint former First Lady Michelle Obama's official White House portrait by the White House Historical Association.
She painted it over the course of nine months, facing minor challenges in White House protocol when she wanted to move things around in different rooms to improve the lighting or the scene.
The portraits are typically unveiled during the succeeding president's administration, but the Trump administration never held the ceremony for the Obamas, so Sprung kept the completed portrait in her studio.

The non-disclosure agreement she signed meant she had to keep it hidden from view for six years until the Bidens held an unveiling in 2022 when it was displayed alongside a painting of Barack Obama by Robert McCurdy.
At the event, the former president thanked Sprung for "capturing everything I love about Michelle, her grace, her intelligence -- and the fact that she's fine".
The portrait depicts Obama sitting on a red sofa in the Red Room of the White House, wearing a turquoise off-the-shoulder dress designed by Jason Wu, who designed several garments for her in the past.
Sprung based the painting on several photographs.
According to Maegan Vazquez of CNN, the portrait shows Obama "appearing to take a brief moment to get comfortable inside one of the most formal rooms in the White House".

Vazquez also noted that it was the first time such a portrait depicted someone in a strapless dress.
Dan Kois of Slate said the portrait "pays tribute to the past while pulling presidential portraiture gently into the 21st century" and praised the gilded frame.
Will Heinrich of the New York Times compared the portrait to those by other artists, noting the way Sprung's work "is a reminder that oil paint remains the best technology for really looking at someone" and presents a "compromise between the Obamas' desire to innovate and the imperative to respect the White House aesthetic".

Sharon Sprung è un'artista pluripremiata con sede a Brooklyn che ha studiato alla Cornell, alla The Art Students League di New York eD alla National Academy of Design.
Oltre alla sua pratica creativa, Sprung insegna anche pittura e disegno al National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts e The Art Students League.
Il suo lavoro ha vinto numerosi premi ed è presente in importanti collezioni pubbliche, tra cui la Camera dei rappresentanti degli Stati Uniti, Bell Laboratories, ATandT, Princeton University, Sherman e Sterling e la Chase Manhattan Bank.