West Virginia University art professor Naijun Zhang is known for his paintings of realistic scenes, mostly from his home country of China. Now he is becoming well known as a portrait painter, especially for judges in West Virginia.
Most recently, Zhang completed a portrait of Judge Joseph R. Goodwin of the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
Zhang, who is associate professor of painting and coordinator of the Painting Program in the WVU School of Art and Design, has been working on judicial portraits since 2004 and his work can be seen at the Federal Courthouses in Elkins, Wheeling and Martinsburg, W.Va., as well as in Richmond, Va.
“My portraits got Judge Goodwin’s attention in 2004 at the portrait unveiling ceremony for Judge Robert E. Maxwell in Elkins and later he saw the portrait of Judge M. Blane Michael that I completed in 2012 in Richmond,” Zhang said. “His former clerks established a portrait fund and commissioned me to work on his portrait.”
To begin the process of completing the portrait, Zhang set up a photographic session with Judge Goodwin.
“After taking a lot of photographs, I studied them and made sketches showing the basic compositional ideas,” Zhang explained.
Based on the sketches, he painted a small color study so that he could show Judge Goodwin a small version of what the large portrait would look like.
After getting the color study approved by Goodwin, Zhang began work on a 48-inch by 36-inch linen canvas.
“The portrait was painted on fine Belgian linen stretched on a professional keyed stretcher,” Zhang said.
To paint, he used pure mineral pigments mixed with cold-pressed linseed oil because this makes the colors resistant to fading.
Normally, Zhang takes about two months to complete a portrait, but his portrait of Judge Goodwin took about four months because of the complexity of the background.
Born in China, Zhang received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in oil painting from Nanjing Arts Institute, Nanjing, China, in 1988 and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from WVU in 2000.
Zhang has had solo exhibitions at OK Harris Works of Art in New York City and Michael Berger Gallery in Pittsburgh. His paintings have been included in numerous group exhibitions, in both the United States and China, notably at Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts in Tallahassee, Fla.; Huntington Museum of Art in Huntington, W.Va.; LaGrange Art Museum in LaGrange, Ga.; Highlands Museum of the Arts in Sebring, Fla.; Museum in the Community in Hurricane, W.Va.; First Street Gallery in New York City; The Culture Center in Charleston, W.Va.; Shanghai Exhibition Center in Shanghai, China; and Jiangsu Provincial Museum of Art in Nanjing, China.
Zhang joined the faculty of the WVU School of Art and Design in 1999 and has established painting study and travel programs in China for WVU art students.
The unveiling ceremony for the portrait of Judge Joseph R. Goodwin will be held in March 2014 at the Robert C. Byrd Federal Courthouse in Charleston, W.Va. and the portrait will become part of the permanent collection at the Federal Courthouse.
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.