The John Singer Sargent Medal
American Society of Portrait Artists
John Howard Sanden portraits The Founders Gold Medal
Portrait Society of America

John Howard Sanden 1935 – 2022

August 6, 1935 – December 24, 2022

The American portrait artist, author, and teacher died in his home on Christmas Eve. He was 87 years old. He maintained a studio in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and also a New York studio in Carnegie Hall, until the artists’ studios were closed in 2008. In a career spanning 56 years as a painter of commissioned portraits, he completed 450 images of American leaders in government, business, and the professions. His official White House portraits of President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush were unveiled at the White House on May 31, 2012.

In one unique assignment that took place over 27 intermittent years, Mr. Sanden painted portraits of a series of African royalty, including His Majesty the Alaafin of Oyo, His Royal Highness the Emir of Kano, and others. He displayed these paintings and a number of other borrowed commissioned paintings at a solo exhibition at the Salmagundi Club in New York City in 2017.

John Howard Sanden was the author of seven books on portrait painting. He taught portraiture at the Art Students League of New York, where his annual lecture series was a popular feature on the League calendar for 25 years. He founded The Portrait Institute in 1974 with his wife, Elizabeth. In 1979, Mr. Sanden introduced The National Portrait Seminar as a lecture format in New York City. This format for teaching was new to the art world and artists from across the nation and internationally attended. The seminar met until 1993.

Mr. Sanden achieved acclaim within the portrait world. In 1994, he was awarded the John Singer Sargent Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the American Society of Portrait Artists. In 2005, he received the Founders Gold Medal from the Portrait Society of America. Also in 1994, Mr. Sanden received an honorary Fine Arts doctorate degree from Houghton College.

For more than sixty years, Mr. Sanden was associated with The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, beginning in 1961 as a professional staff member and throughout later decades providing portraits, magazine cover illustrations, and other art. As recently as 2021, he created a large painting of "The Empty Tomb" for The Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. His final painting was a large family portrait with five family members for a client in McLean, Virginia.

John Howard Sanden was a professing Christian. He eagerly contributed paintings to the two churches with which he was associated: The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City and The Noroton Presbyterian Church in Darien, Connecticut.

The artist was associated in all of his professional endeavors with his wife of 49 years, Elizabeth (Schneider), who is also an artist. His first wife, Priscilla (Peters) died at an early age. He is also survived by his daughter, Pamela Brooke Sanden of Northampton, Massachusetts; his son, Jonathan Bryant Sanden of Chicago; daughter-in-law Rachel Wolff; and five grandchildren—Julian, Fiona, Penelope and Anna Livia McMahon, all of Northampton, and Elijah Wolff Sanden, of Chicago, Illinois, born November 2022.

A 2023 memorial service will be announced. Donations may be given in his memory to The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Noroton Presbyterian Church in Darien, or The Art Students League of New York.

John Howard Sanden
1935 - 2022