J. Paul Getty posed for this portrait by Armando Drechsler while vacationing in Mexico for a few months in 1940 and 1941. According to his diary, Getty sat for this portrait over the course of at least six sessions in the artist’s Mexico City studio in January of 1941 (GRI, accession number: 2010.IA.16, J. Paul Getty diary, August 8, 1940–December 26, 1941, pp. 74-79). Later in the same year, Drechsler visited the United States to paint President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945) in his office at the White House at the request of the Mexican president Manuel Avila Camacho (1897–1955).
An avid art collector, Getty commissioned several portraits from contemporary artists. Drechsler’s portrait style is realistic but also flattering to the sitter: Getty’s hair is a lustrous blonde, his skin is unblemished, and his gaze into the distance seems contemplative. While Getty’s face and hands are detailed and lifelike, the vigorous brushstrokes in the background contrast with the more finished foreground. Unlike Drechsler’s popular commercial images depicting Mexican and indigenous cultures in a vibrant, stylized manner, this portrait has a somewhat restrained energy and color scheme in the American palette of red, white, and blue.