Someone's Watching You:
The New Tip O'Neill Portrait in O'Neill Library

By Kevin Tringale

Ever get the feeling you're being watched? Well you are...sort of. Above the Circulation Desk in O'Neill Library is a new portrait of Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, the famous alumnus whose name is above the entrance of the building. The striking portrait of the late U.S. Speaker of the House is in fact a study for the final portrait which now hangs in the Speaker's Lobby of the U.S. Capitol. Being a study may explain why it looks unfinished or incomplete. The portrait (18"x20") was painted by American master realist artist Robert Vickrey, N.A. (1926- ). Vickrey's paintings, drawings, and watercolors are in permanent collections in over 80 leading American art museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian, Brooklyn Museum, and many others.


Tip O'Neill Portrait
Photo by Kevin Tringale

The "life study" was done in the summer of 1986 at Vickrey's studio on Cape Cod when Tip O'Neill selected him as the artist for his portrait in the House Speaker's Lobby. The study is done in egg tempera which according to Grove Art Online is a paint made using egg yolk as the binding medium instead of oil or water. This technique goes back to antiquity. The piece was recently cleaned and framed and now commands its spot overlooking the O'Neill lobby.

More can be learned about the artist in the biography Robert Vickrey: The Magic of Realism (Bapst Art Stacks ND1839 .V52 E45 2008) and his book written with Diane Cochrane New Techniques in Egg Tempera (Bapst Art Stacks ND2468 .V52).

Kevin Tringale, Senior Reference Assistant, O'Neill Library