The J. Paul Getty Museum

Portrait of J. Paul Getty

Object Details


Portrait of J. Paul Getty


Robert Oliver Skemp (American, 1910 - 1984)




about 1970


Oil on canvas

Object Number:



90.5 × 82.9 cm (35 5/8 × 32 5/8 in.)


© Estate of Robert Oliver Skemp. All rights reserved.

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Object Description

Robert Oliver Skemp, an American portraitist and commercial illustrator, probably painted J. Paul Getty from a photograph rather than from life. Skemp employed this technique for other portraits of prominent figures, such as U.S. Congressman Walter Gresham Andrews (1889–1949) who he painted fifteen years after his death from a small photograph (Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives). This portrait may have been commissioned by Getty himself or by the Getty Oil Company after his death in 1976. Getty’s facial expression, spotted tie, and pose with hands clasped in front of his chest are nearly identical to a photograph from the 1960s in which he sits in front of wooden paneling with a bouquet of flowers.

This portrait captures Getty in his later years gazing directly out at the viewer with a cool, serious gaze, revealing little of his inner life or personality. Getty was at least seventy at the time of this portrait, captured by his wrinkles and graying hair. The dark background and exaggerated shadows across his body contrast with the bright light, highlighting his realistically detailed face and hands and bringing his somber expression into dramatic focus. 

probably 1978 - 1984

Getty Oil Co. (Houston, Texas), by gift to the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1984; accessioned in 2003.