On March 6, the Worcester Courthouse’s first-ever portrait of a female judge was unveiled, and the artist, HUA adjunct professor Jo Ellen Reinhardt, was on hand for the presentation and to say a few words about her subject, retired judge Martha Grace.
Reinhardt, who teaches figure drawing in C-Term, came to WPI five years ago after talking with associate dean Kris Boudreau about teaching art classes at WPI. She says portrait work is her passion because it allows her to capture both a person’s outward appearance and inner personality.Reinhardt’s process of painting Judge Grace’s portrait took months.
Grace received Reinhardt’s name along with several recommended portrait artists; the two spoke several times before meeting last June to begin the process of finding the right tone and the right pose for the portrait that now hangs in Courtroom 4 of Worcester Juvenile Court. Grace was the first woman to be appointed chief justice of the Massachusetts juvenile court system and spent many years throughout her career in the Worcester court. She retired in 2009.
Reinhardt and Grace discussed their ideas and went through a couple of photo sessions before narrowing down the perfect image. The two thought a straight-on portrait represented Grace’s role in presiding over a courthouse, and Reinhardt also wanted it to bring in Grace’s personality and natural beauty.
Capturing the essence of a person with simple tools like paint, pencil, and paper is a task Reinhardt wants her students to master. And teaching figure drawing to detail-oriented engineers isn’t as far-fetched as some might think, she says. “I teach figure drawing in a very technical way,” says Reinhardt. “There’s lots of measuring and comparing angles and different approaches to drawing a figure.”