John Howard Sanden has been one of the nation's leading portrait artists for more than four decades. This website chronicles his 348 commissioned portraits of figures in government, business, education, and the professions. He has written five books on portrait painting; he lectured on portraiture for twenty-five years at The Art Students League of New York.
In 1994, Sanden received the John Singer Sargent Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the American Society of Portrait artists, and in 2005 he received the Founders' Gold Medal from the Portrait Society of America. His official portraits of President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush were unveiled at the White House on May 31, 2012.
The critical year in Sanden's personal career was 1969, the year he decided to leave the Midwest and a long career as art director for the Rev. Billy Graham, to try his hand at New York City and the world of portrait painting. Within months of arriving in New York, he was appointed to the teaching faculty of The Art Students League, became affiliated with the city's principal portrait brokerage, and established a nationwide portrait clientele of the famous, wealthy, and influential.
Sanden then dove into an ambitious teaching career. He founded the Portrait Institute in 1974 and began touring the nation, teaching his ideas and techniques to the thousands who came to hear him in classes as large as 700 at a time. Those who could not come in person studied through one of the national correspondence instructional programs he created.
In 1979, Sanden launched the National Portrait Seminar, which grew to be-at that time-the largest art seminar program in America. The Seminar pioneered the large-scale artists' conference which is now common across the nation. Through his Portrait Institute (books and video teaching products) John has influenced more than 80,000 artists around the world. In 1994 Houghton College awarded John Howard Sanden the Doctor of Fine Arts degree (honoris causa).