The longtime Irondequoit resident says he thinks the portrait should be seen, especially during the Easter season.
His passion, he says, is painting portraits.
At age 91 and having lost the sight in one eye, Stanley Gordon says he’s still “getting along.”
He most recently painted a luminous portrait of his grandson, Collin Hancock, also of Irondequoit — and another portrait of Jesus Christ.
“I’m famous for my pictures of Christ,” Gordon said, “but I think this one I just finished a month or so ago is the best I’ve done.”
In the past decade, he had an exhibit of his portraits of religious leaders — including Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Bishop Martin Sheen and three portraits of Jesus Christ — exhibited at Rockefeller Center in New York City.
One of the latter portraits, and the rights to the image, were purchased by the owner of a magazine in California and eventually landed on the cover as “the man of the millennium.” Copies were sold on a television shopping network and on eBay.
Gordon estimates that as many as half a million copies of his portraits of Jesus have been sold.
“I'll tell you, this is quite a world,” Gordon said.
He did his first portrait of Jesus, he said, when he got back from overseas, where he sketched portraits of wounded servicemen in hospitals after World War II, and his mother said she wanted a print of Jesus to hang in her dining room.
“I said, ‘Mom, I can paint you one’,” Gordon recalled. Next, his wife wanted a similar portrait. Gordon thinks he made about 17 portraits of Jesus at the time.
“As an artist, you have to have an image in your mind,” Gordon said, “but my feeling was that some portraits of Jesus make him look weak or wimpy ... but I believe he was a leader and a man who had the most inspiring influence on history.”
He read the Bible’s New Testament, Gordon said, to get images in his mind of how he wanted to paint a portrait of Jesus.
“I was never a very religious guy, but I do have faith in Jesus and the influence he had on teaching people how to live their lives,” Gordon said. “He tried to change people’s lives and make them live better.”
He thinks the blue eyes he gave Jesus in his portrait “got people’s attention.”
“How you communicate with people is through the eyes ... and the voice, of course,” Gordon said.
He retained the blue eyes in his latest portrait of Jesus, but says he painted him “even stronger,” and wanted to people to see it, especially at Easter time.
Gordon, who has resided along St. Paul Boulevard in Irondequoit’s Summerville neighborhood since 1960, is one of this area’s — and possibly the country’s — most prolific portrait artists. He also taught art for many years at Rochester Institute of Technology and at the University of Rochester.
Page 2 of 2 - His portraits of Rochester’s county managers, including Gordon Howe and Bob King, hang in the Monroe County Office Building. Many of his portraits of Rochester’s notables also hang in local colleges, museums and corporation headquarters.
At the request of Rosalynn Carter, he painted the portrait of President Jimmy Carter that is now displayed in Carter’s presidential library.
He next painted President George H.W. Bush, though he was prevented from joining then-Congressman Frank Horton in delivering it to the Oval Office because of the infamous Rochester ice storm of 1991.
His portrait of President John F. Kennedy was purchased by a high school in Minneapolis two years ago. And his depiction of the Eastman School of Music’s renowned former director, Howard Hanson, now is featured on the cover of a boxed set of music by the musician.
“Painting a portrait is one of the greatest challenges in the world — you’ve got to create life, create this person,” Gordon said. “I love people; everyone has a different image and story to tell.”
Gordon has survived his wife and two of his three children, but his son, Kevin, who lives outside New York City, has become a well-known portraitist in his own right.
His studio, stacked with luminous portraits of such well-known faces as abolitionist Frederick Douglass and actress Sophia Loren, is located inside his home, but more paintings lean up against every available piece of furniture and wall throughout the house. The studio has high ceilings and light streaming in from a window facing the north.
“This is my world here,” Gordon said. “I don't need much room ... only the north-facing light.”