The 2014 White House holiday card features artwork by Emily Buchanan ’89
The painting featured on the 2014 White House holiday card shows the Entrance Hall of the presidential residence and, in the foreground, the Obama family dogs, Bo and Sunny.
From a Bates perspective, an intriguing part of the image is at lower right. No, not the dogs. The artist’s signature: Buchanan. That’s Emily Buchanan ’89.
A landscape artist who works mostly in New England, Buchanan has some high-profile clients, but that didn’t land her the White House commission.
Recently interviewed by fellow artist Brandon Kralik, who blogs for the Huffington Post, Buchanan says that her involvement with a U.S. Department of State program that places artwork in U.S. embassies around the world led to the White House job. Over the years, her work has been shown in embassies in Tunisia and Lesotho.
A psychology major at Bates, Buchanan studied at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, the National Academy School and the Art Students League. She credits Paul Ingbretson for her classical training in drawing and painting.
Complementing that training has been the willingness to work hard, which she credits to her Bates education.
“I developed personally more than artistically at Bates, but in many ways they go hand in hand,” she says. “My greatest asset as a painter has been that I’ve worked hard and consistently at it over the years. If I hadn’t had the experiences at Bates, I’m not sure that I would have had the maturity to pursue my art as I have.”
She told Kralik that “finding out what worked and what didn’t just took years and years of repetition. The surprising thing is why I continued when I wasn’t that good.”
Obama isn’t the only president who has taken a liking to Buchanan’s work.
Along with original works by Joel Babb, Grace Knowlton and others, Bates president Clayton Spencer has one of Buchanan’s paintings in her Lane Hall office, a landscape that she painted in Costa Rica.
The work was purchased by the Bates College Museum of Art through the endowed Olivia and Ellwood Straub Art Acquisition Fund, given by Carl Benton Straub, professor emeritus of religion and the Clark A. Griffith Professor of Environmental Studies, specifically to purchase landscapes by 20th-century artists or by young contemporary artists.
“I was touched when I heard that my painting hangs in the President’s Office at Bates,” Buchanan says. “It is very meaningful knowing that people see my paintings in day-to-day settings.”
Buchanan’s client list includes James Taylor, Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. “The greatest compliment, however, that I’ve ever received was hearing that a collector asked that a painting of mine be brought into his hospice room because it made him feel connected to a place that was so important to him.
“If my painting can make someone feel joy or peace, what could be better than that?”