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William F. Draper, 90; Called ‘Dean of American Portraiture’

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

William F. Draper, 90, dubbed the “dean of American portraiture” for his ability to depict the rich and powerful including the Shah of Iran, financier Paul Mellon and President Nixon, died Oct. 26 at his home in New York City of natural causes.

Draper acquired the “dean” title in 1999 from the Portrait Society of America when it gave him its lifetime achievement award. His paintings of Nixon and President Kennedy hang in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

Born in Hopedale, Mass., Draper studied at Harvard and at the National Academy of Design in New York. He was a Navy combat artist in World War II, rising to lieutenant commander and earning a Bronze Star.

The artist’s wartime work was reproduced in National Geographic in 1944 and exhibited in 1945 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington and at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Later, working from his Manhattan studio, he painted such subjects as Charles Mayo of the Mayo Clinic, Terence Cardinal Cooke, publishing magnate and philanthropist Walter Annenberg and actress Celeste Holm.

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