Have you seen this painting? The mystery continues.....


In the Spring of 1964 I had the opportunity as an 18-year-old sophomore at Hampden-Sydney College to present to Attorney General Robert Kennedy a portrait I had painted of his brother, the President.

The event was recorded on 8mm film that has subsequently been transferred to DVD. At least two of the principals at the presentation, other than me, are still alive – Mrs. Ethel Kennedy and William Vanden Heuvel, Robert Kennedy’s aide. The painting, according to Mr. Kennedy, was to be given to the proposed Kennedy Library.  That never happened because of events both known and shrouded in mystery. My hope is to locate the painting and see that it finds a suitable home and is protected.
The more complete story of the presentation appears below:

It broke my heart when President Kennedy was murdered. I still remember how I felt on November 22, 1963, during my sophomore year at Hampden-Sydney College. Back home in Richmond, Virginia over Christmas break, I filled my emptiness and despair by painting a portrait of the President.

I painted out my tears.

The following Spring Hampden-Sydney President Taylor Reveley stopped me on campus and told me that Attorney General Robert Kennedy was making a trip to Prince Edward County to accept pennies school children had collected for the yet-to-be-built Kennedy Library. “I’d like to get him to the campus to address the student body, and I wonder if you would be willing to give him your painting?” Dr. Reveley asked. I was thrilled that I would have the chance to meet the President’s brother. “Absolutely, I’ll do it!”

Dr. Reveley phoned the Attorney General’s office. Yes. Robert Kennedy would gladly accept the painting.

It was May 11, 1964 — secret service men combed the campus. At last, amid the squirrels and 200-year-old oaks, the whir of helicopter blades began cutting the fragrant air, announcing Mr. Kennedy’s arrival.  After landing, the Attorney General briskly strode to Middlecourt, the President’s House, then back down the steps, toward Johns Auditorium where he was to deliver his talk.

Hampden-Sydney students were a mostly conservative bunch and began to grumble when the Attorney General stepped up to the lectern. Sensing that he was in enemy territory, Mr. Kennedy took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, put aside his prepared remarks, and said, “I believe you gentlemen may have a few questions”, whereupon he proceeded to field queries from the audience for forty-five minutes. With a combination of grace, courage, candor and humor, he won over the assembly, to receive a lengthy standing ovation.

After his talk, he and Mrs. Kennedy (Ethel) made their way to the spot where I was standing - waiting, nervous - my painting in front of me. As he approached, he looked directly at me and reached for my right hand. He said, “Very nice, very nice." I was thrilled.  Then I heard someone say, “Could you let us take a few pictures?” There we stood, Bobby Kennedy and I, both holding the painting I had done. Mrs. Kennedy was smiling, asking me questions about Hampden-Sydney and my schoolwork. I hope I said something intelligible. My life felt complete. Soon they boarded the helicopter and took the painting back to Washington. In a few weeks, Mr. Kennedy sent me a prompt and personal thank you note.

When my portrait of President Kennedy left my guardianship, I felt reassured it would have a fortunate history. In our brief conversation, Mr. Kennedy told me he envisioned a section for commemorative artwork in the yet-to-be constructed Kennedy Library, and he would see to it that my painting found a home there.

After Bobby Kennedy’s murder in June of 1968, I wasn’t so sure. I knew his intentions about everything were no longer operative, but my life was busy, and I put thoughts about the painting away. Early in 1994, curiosity won out, and I began an inquiry to see if I could determine what had happened to the portrait.

First I called the Kennedy Library and spoke with Dave Powers, President Kennedy’s old friend and special assistant, the chief curator. We had a pleasant chat, but he told me he knew nothing of the painting. He suggested that I contact Ethel Kennedy to see if she could shed any light on its whereabouts. I wrote Mrs. Kennedy, and I also called my old Harvard grad school chum Doris Kearns Goodwin to get her suggestions. She proposed that I write Congressman Joe Kennedy. Early in November 1995, I received a warm reply from Congressman Kennedy telling me he had spoken to his mother and Frank Rigg, by then the Museum Curator, and could learn nothing helpful. At the end of his letter, he appended a handwritten note:

“Louis - Many thanks for the beautiful painting. As I am sure you may understand, those were very turbulent times and many, many things and remembrances have been lost or stolen. But the spirit of your work and theirs goes on. Many thanks, Joe” 

“Lost or Stolen” — those words intrigue me.

Someone, somewhere, knows the secret. The painting has had its journey and I suspect has an interesting tale to tell. Whatever the answer, I made a deal over a handshake one spring day in 1964 to let Robert Kennedy become the caretaker of my painting. Just as he was unable to safeguard himself or his legacy, he was unable to protect my painting, as he had hoped. I made the deal that day to let go, and all the love and effort and tears that went into the painting went along with it, indelibly couched in the paint.

Peter Porte

Acrylic/canvas  24" X 30" 2012

Just signed, a new portrait of actor Peter Porte.
To see more of him in action, please see http://www.youtube.co/watch?v=vBaso0l13hI.
And thanks to my subject for being so generous with his time in sittings.

Dustin Lance Black

In April of 2015 the Commissioners of the National Portrait Gallery selected for the permanent collection this portrait of writer/activist Dustin Lance Black, making this the third of my paintings to be included in the collection at the Smithsonian. Painted in Los Angeles with Mr. Black’s cooperation during the winter months of 2012. “I am honored to have had the chance to paint Lance, to pay tribute to his remarkable career in the film industry and his tireless efforts to foster equality for LGBT persons.  The painting was done during a difficult period of Lance’s life as he was dealing with the illness and untimely death of his beloved older brother, Marcus. The painting is contemplative - a quiet, introspective look into the interior of a  busy man who always has a worthwhile new plan or project."

40" X 30" acrylic/canvas 2012

From Lance Black’s website:

“Dustin Lance Black is a screenwriter, producer and director, having won the Academy Award® and Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay for MILK, the biopic of the late gay civil rights activist Harvey Milk starring Sean Penn.

An honors graduate of UCLA´s School of Film and Television, Black began his professional career as an art director and quickly transitioned to directing documentaries, television series, commercials and music videos. Black´s documentaries ON THE BUS (2001) and MY LIFE WITH COUNT DRACULA (2003) debuted to acclaim and lead to a successful stint producing and directing TLC´s and BBC´s hit program FAKING IT, which received notices for its unflinching sociological commentaries.

In 2004, Black signed on to draw on his devout Mormon childhood experiences in San Antonio, Texas as a writer and co-producer on HBO´s Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominated polygamist drama BIG LOVE. He continued to write for the show until the third season wrapped in 2008.

Mr. Black also penned the screenplay for PEDRO, the first scripted project from Bunim-Murray Productions about the life and legacy of famed openly gay, HIV positive Real World cast member Pedro Zamora. The film premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival and earned Mr. Black his second WGA Award nomination when it premiered on MTV and VH1 in 2009.

Recently, Black completed his feature directorial debut VIRGINIA starring Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris and has teamed up with director Clint Eastwood, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Imagine Entertainment to scribe J.EDGAR, the story of famed FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

Black is currently writing THE BAREFOOT BANDIT for FOX based on the true story of Colton Harris-Moore, and recently signed on to adapt Jon Krakauer´s acclaimed UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN for Warner Brothers.

Beyond his film work, Black is also a civil rights activist. He is a founding board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which is leading the Federal Case against Prop 8 in CA with lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson, and is on the Board of the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ teen suicide hotline providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth.

Since winning the Oscar in 2009, Black has been on a equal rights speaking tour across the country, and was one of a handful of organizers of the LGBT March on Washington in October 2009 where he spoke to an audience of over 150,000 demonstrators in front of the Nation´s Capital.

Black has had two books published, has written for every major screenwriting magazine, contributes to The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post, topped the list of OUT Magazine´s 40 under 40, and has repeatedly been named one of the 50 most powerful LGBT people in America today by that same publication.”

Russell V. Palmore, Jr.

A portrait in memory of Russell V. Palmore, Jr.  was unveiled at Roslyn on May 25, 2012. It hangs in the newly dedicated Chancellor's Room.

"Russ lit up the world.  I hope my portrait transmits his light and spirit."
40" X 30" acrylic/canvas 2011

Martin portrait Goes to the Smithsonian!


Sad update to a wonderful story. RIP, David.

The Commissioners of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery have announced the acquisition of a 1980 portrait of David N. Martin by Louis Briel.

Martin is the founder of the Martin Agency, one of the Nation's foremost advertising agencies. His enduring “Virginia is for Lovers” campaign is widely viewed as one of the most successful marketing campaigns in history. Today, Martin is an author, speaker and lecturer who lives in Richmond, Virginia.

Louis Briel's 1993 portrait of Arthur Ashe is also in the Permanent Collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

David Martin 1980 60" X 30" acrylic/canvas


Marcus Raul Black (1970-2012)
This painting was a gift for my friend, Dustin Lance Black, human rights activist and Oscar winning screenwriter of the movie "Milk." Lance remembers,  "I love my big brother more than I can describe. We survived a lot and  of dark days when we were little boys. I won’t go into the details, but I don’t think I would have made it without him."

Michael Whitehouse has been a part of the hospitality industry for several decades.  His career spans from New York City to Los Angeles, where he worked with such great chefs as Jonathan Waxman, Michael McCarty, Mark Peel, Nancy Silverton, Roland Gibert and Susan Tract.
Michael’s culinary studies started at the Kump Institute in New York City aiding him in his career of hotel and restaurant management.  In 2001 he branched out on his own as a personal chef for several of LA’s elite households.
Being a private chef introduced him to the world of photo shoots, and on set catering.  In 2003, photographer, Kwaku Alston, and producer Franny Legge introduced him to the industry.
Since 2003 he has enjoyed being at the helm of his own company, Whitehouse Dish, and catering to the photo industry, TV, catering and event planning for weddings, events, openings and private dinners.