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Brandeis portrait latest in series on inspiring Americans

May 27th, 2009


Louis D. Brandeis is the latest subject in the “Americans Who Tell the Truth” portrait series. (Larger image)

Painter Rob Shetterly is documenting Americans who tell the truth. He was at the University of Louisville May 26 to unveil his latest portrait of such an American: Louis D. Brandeis, Louisville native and namesake of UofL’s law school.

Inspired to begin the Americans Who Tell the Truth Collection series after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Shetterly said at Tuesday’s gathering that his goal is to present “role models for how you fight injustice.”

Brandeis, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1916–1939, was known throughout his career as “The People’s Attorney” and for his efforts to create a more just society.

Following the same format as other paintings in the series, Shetterly’s portrait of Brandeis has his name and a quote scratched into the paint.

“Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher,” it says. “Crime is contagious. If government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law, it invites every man to become a law unto himself, it invites anarchy.”

The quotes he includes on the portraits speak to Shetterly in a way that is relevant not only in the subject’s time but also today, he said.

Noting that he originally had intended to paint 50 portraits as a way to channel his anger into hope, he has painted more than 140 of such people as Muhammad Ali, Wendell Berry, Sojourner Truth, Abraham Lincoln and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

“My life has been completely changed by what I have learned from these people,” Shetterly said of his subjects.

Shetterly displays the portraits in a traveling exhibit. His exhibit in Louisville last fall led to the Brandeis portrait. Law professor Laura Rothstein attended that exhibit and later corresponded with Shetterly about Brandeis’ contributions to society. She invited him back to Louisville to unveil the completed work.

In addition to the unveiling at the law school, Shetterly also shared his Brandeis and Ali paintings, as well as slides of a handful of others, with students participating in the Law and Government career magnet at Central High School.

UofL’s School of Law partners with Central on the magnet program. Law students, faculty and staff help provide activities and programming for the students in an effort to give them a better understanding of the law and what it means to be a lawyer.

Related Link
Americans Who Tell the Truth

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