Everett Raymond Kinstler, Prolific Portraitist, Dies at 92

Everett Raymond Kinstler, who went from drawing Zorro and Hawkman to painting hundreds of portraits of the glamorous and powerful, including several American presidents, died on Sunday in Bridgeport, Conn. He was 92.

His wife, Peggy Kinstler, said the cause was heart failure. Mr. Kinstler had homes in nearby Easton, Conn., and Manhattan.

Attracted to art from an early age, Mr. Kinstler dropped out of high school at 15 to work in the comic-book industry, illustrating lots of western sagas but also titles like Space Detective and Hawkman. After 12 years, he left that field to do magazine and book covers and, increasingly, portraits. He was soon in demand for those and began to attract marquee names.

Celebrities like Katharine Hepburn, James Cagney and Carol Burnett would soon come along. So would sports figures like Arthur Ashe, Tommy Lasorda and Byron Nelson.

And there were also the presidents, Richard M. Nixon being the first. Mr. Kinstler painted not only Nixon, but also nine members of his cabinet. His presidential portfolio eventually included Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and both Bushes.

Portraits by Mr. Kinstler of Reagan and Ford are the official presidential portraits kept at the White House. Mr. Kinstler also painted Donald J. Trump, but before he became president.

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington has 84 of Mr. Kinstler’s works in its collection, a spokeswoman said.

Though he was having success in comics, at 17 he began taking art classes as well so that he could learn to draw human figures. Those classes and the “cowboys and cleavage” (as he put it) that he was drawing for comic books gave him the tools he needed for the next phase of his career.

“When I got into portraiture, it was a natural progression,” he said. “I loved interpreting people. You’re not painting types, you’re painting individuals.”

Mr. Kinstler joined the Army near the end of World War II. After serving at Fort Dix in New Jersey from 1944 to 1946, he returned to the comic-book business. He did a lot of work for Avon Comics, he said, because unlike some other imprints it allowed artists to sign their work. (Early in his career he used the name “Everett Raymond” for brevity’s sake, though he eventually switched to his full name.)

As the 1950s advanced, portrait work would replace comic books as his main source of income. Many portraitists survive by doing posthumous portraits, painting someone’s dead loved one, but in a telephone interview Mrs. Kinstler said her husband had rarely taken such assignments once his career gained traction.

“When he got to the point when he didn’t have to do that anymore, he didn’t unless it was really unusual,” she said, “because he wanted that human connection.”

Mr. Kinstler, she said, had a response whenever someone would ask how long it took him to make a portrait: about 80 hours, or “a lifetime and a weekend.”

Mr. Kinstler said that though he painted some polarizing politicians and other controversial figures, he tried to remain dispassionate.

“That’s what it’s all about, telling a story about the person, not judging them,” he told The Easton Courier of Connecticut in 2016. “That I leave up to somebody else.”

Mr. Kinstler’s first marriage, to Lea Nation, ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters from his first marriage, Katherine Kinstler Fuertes and Dana Kinstler Standefer; three stepchildren, Maggie, Tyler and Sam Chartier; five granddaughters; and four step-grandchildren.

Peggy Kinstler said her husband, though affable in the studio, had been confident in his skills even if the subject was prickly or controlling, as was the case with James Schlesinger, Nixon’s secretary of defense. After sitting for several sessions in a light suit, she said, he inspected Mr. Kinstler’s work and announced that he wanted to be pictured in a dark suit instead. Mr. Kinstler’s response?

“Everett looked at him and said, ‘The brush stops here.’ ”

Source link