Dr. Ralph immortalized on canvas

Kenneth Hari with Ralph Stanley at the sitting for the Stanley Museum portraitA portrait of Ralph Stanley has been commissioned for the Ralph Stanley Museum, to be created by renowned portraitist Kenneth Hari. The finished painting will be unveiled this summer at the museum in Clintwood, Va where it will reside as a part of their permanent collection.

Hari is a long-time fan of country and bluegrass music, who has painted portraits of Bill Monroe, Chet Atkins and Hank Williams in addition to other celebrities like Dustin Hoffman, Salvador Dali and Norman Rockwell. He traveled to the museum in early April to do sketches of Dr. Ralph in a live sitting, Hari’s preferred and universal policy on creating portraits of living subjects.

We spoke with the artist recently, and he shared some thoughts about meeting the good doctor.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Clintwood to see Dr. Stanley and create my sketches. The countryside is beautiful and the people were all terrific.

The museum itself is a jewel, and meeting Dr. Stanley was a great pleasure. I recall standing with him amidst the exhibits, and he looked up at me with a smile and said ‘Can you believe this? In my lifetime to see this?’

The man just has an aura about him… an elegance, and a wonderful way with people.”

Hari said that the commission was paid by an anonymous donor specifically with the condition that the painting be given to the museum. He hopes that he will be able to create several portraits from his sketches, and indicated that the museum portrait will depict Ralph with his signature Stanleytone banjo.

Larry Pierucci, Hari’s business representative, tells us that there are loose plans for poster prints from the Stanley portrait, which would be issued to benefit the Stanley Museum. Prints of a number of existing Hari portraits are available online.

An unveiling is planned for sometime in August at the Ralph Stanley Museum.

Museum director Aaron Davis is understandably eager to have the painting hanging on the wall.

“We are extremely excited to see the final product, as we’ve seen Mr. Hari’s work and know that this will be an incredible addition to his portfolio and a wonderful new item for the Museum & Center. Mr. Hari mentioned that this portrait will be here long after he and Dr. Stanley are gone, and that’s one of the great things about working with an artist of Mr. Hari’s caliber–this portrait will remain as a one-of-a-kind piece that helps to tell the story of mountain music for many years to come. The only difficult part of this process is waiting for it to be completed! We have some idea of the final version based on work we’ve seen, but it doesn’t make the waiting game any easier as we move towards the unveiling. We’re looking forward to being pleasantly surprised!”

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.