Artist Rossin: ‘Uniqueness of Every Life’ Critical to Portraits
The celebrated artist Ross Rossin tells Newsmax TV that “the human spirit, the human nature, the variety of that spirit” is what he seeks to capture in each of the more than 250 subjects he has painted throughout his career.
“The possibility to study this nature in its tremendous variety of manifestations,” says Rossin, whose painting of Ronald Reagan graced the cover of Newsmax magazine for the 40th president’s centennial in February 2011. “It’s not the names. It’s not the individuals. It’s the uniqueness of every life, every message out there, every presence — and that’s what I care about.
“To me, there is no difference in time,” Rossin tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “Those paintings need to be relevant 200 years from now when all of us would be gone. I want to make sure they would carry that message and energy.”
Rossin, whose work is available on Rossinfineart.com, was 6 years old when he started painting in his native Bulgaria. He relocated his family to the United States in 2001 and now lives in Atlanta.
His subjects have been as diverse as Scarlett O’Hara of the movie classic “Gone With the Wind”; actor Morgan Freeman; Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and world leaders Nelson Mandela and Mohandas Ghandi.
Queen Elizabeth II recently recognized Rossin for his portrait of her father, King George IV.
“He was unexpected to be king. But when the duty called, he rose to the occasion splendidly,” Rossin tells Newsmax. “The queen apparently liked the portrait so, obviously, I’m pleased to hear that someone like Queen Elizabeth, being more than 60 years on the throne, would appreciate my work.”
That painting remains in Atlanta.
“It is Her Majesty’s wish the portrait stay in America — and we are in process of finding an appropriate public space so many people could see it.”
Meanwhile, Rossin recently completed a portrait of the third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. He worked from a bust the renowned French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon completed in 1789.
“It was extremely difficult on so many levels — and it was not the physical likeness that was the biggest challenge,” Rossin tells Newsmax. “It was capturing his spirit and the energy that he would carry for more than 200 years that he would come to us so close and always relevant to this day that it was very important for me to get this essence of his soul.
“The physical likeness naturally was a challenge because you don’t have much material from the period; you have several paintings, which are not that necessarily spectacular. That’s why I turned to the bust that Houdon did of him — and that was my basic information about his features — but the rest is pure spirit.”
He also is working on a book about Jefferson with former U.N. Ambassador and Congressman Andrew Young.
“I see it like a conversation between two men who have very different perspectives. I come from Europe, and I see this country with a certain sort of fresh eyes and fresh understanding of why it works so well 200 years later. He would be the one who was born here, who is the living legend, so naturally he has his own perspective on Jefferson.
“I want to see what’s going to happen in this conversation between two generations, between two individuals with different cultural backgrounds — and how Jefferson is relevant to both of us regardless of our backgrounds,” Rossin says.
Meanwhile, the response has been overwhelming to the Reagan portrait that appeared on the Newsmax cover in 2011.
“Everybody loves it, but much more than that, everybody got the energy that the portrait carries — and this is what’s so important for me,” says Rossin, who recently received an Emmy Award for his work. “To really make sure the energy is there — his contagious optimism, his absolute belief in the strength and the tremendous power of this country.”
He soon will be painting portraits for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights that is expected to open next year in Atlanta.
Among those to be showcased in the $30 million center are the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Mandela, and Václav Havel, the first president of the Czech Republic.
More importantly, however, Rossin — as an artist — sees himself as a “carrier of the tradition.”
“It’s a classical technique, oil and canvas, no different than any painting of the old masters of the 17th centuries you can see in any museum around the world,” he says. “There are no computer tricks or airbrush modifications or whatever. It’s as traditional as it can get.”