The White House Unveiling #3The critical year in John Sanden’s personal history was 1969 — the year he decided to leave the Midwest and a long career in Christian art, and 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, had become affiliated with the city’s principal portrait brokerage, Portraits, Incorporated, and had established a nationwide portrait clientele of the famous, wealthy and influential.

Sanden thereupon launched into an ambitious teaching career. He founded The Portrait Institute in 1974 and began touring the nation, teaching his ideas and techniques to thousands, who came out to hear him in classes as large as seven hundred at a time. Those who could not come in person studied through one of the national correspondence instructional programs, which he created. In 1979, Sanden launched the National Portrait Seminar, which grew to be the largest art seminar program in America. An annual lecture series at the Art Students League was presented to standing-room-only audiences there for twenty-three years.

John Sanden is the author of four books on portraiture: Painting the Head in Oil (Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, 1976); Successful Portrait Painting (Watson-Guptill, 1981); Portraits From Life (North Light Books, Cincinnati, 1999); and The Portraits of John Howard Sanden (Madison Square Press, New York, 2001). With all of these demands on his time, he has managed to complete more than five hundred portraits of prominent figures in American public, professional and business life. His client list reads like a Who’s Who of American education and industry.

Profile, the magazine of the American Portrait Society, said, in a 1984 feature article written by the Society’s president, “John Howard Sanden may well be the best known name in contemporary American portraiture.” Popular columnist Pete Hamill, writing in the New York Post, August 15, 1991, said “John Howard Sanden is the closest we have in America to fit the old role of court painter.”

On May 29, 1994, the American Society of Portrait Artists presented their first John Singer Sargent Medal for Lifetime Achievement to Sanden. On September 30 of that same year, Houghton College awarded him the Doctor of Fine Arts degree.

Arranged by Bob Smith