The story behind that bizarre painting of Bill Clinton in a dress

Jeffrey Epstein had owned and prominently displayed a freakish painting of former President Bill Clinton, now it has been discovered that the odd picture is by New York-based Australian artist Petrina Ryan-Kleid.

According to news.artnet.com, ‘the odd oil painting — which shows Clinton outfitted in a blue dress similar to the one infamously worn by Monica Lewinsky and suggestively curled up on an Oval Office chair while looking and pointing at the piece’s viewer — is just the latest bizarre twist to emerge from the Epstein scandal in the wake of the 66-year-old’s apparent suicide while in federal custody on Saturday.’

The painting has been identified as Parsing Bill by New York-based Australian artist Petrina Ryan-Kleid. (A print version is available on Saatchi Art starting at $40.) The painting was part of a body of student work produced independently of Epstein.

The Clinton painting comes from a pair of works by Ryan-Kleid that lightly satirized political figures. Its companion, a painting of George W. Bush called War Games, features the former president sitting on the floor of the White House playing with paper airplanes and two fallen Jenga towers, referencing his manipulation of the attacks of 9/11 to justify the war in Iraq, the defining scandal of Bush’s White House tenure.




As for Parsing Bill, the blue dress seems a likely reference to the blue dress that served as evidence in the former president’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, the scandal that marked Clinton’s time in office.

Parsing Bill and War Games were shown at the 2012 Tribeca Ball, a fundraiser for Ryan-Kleid’s alma mater, the New York Academy of Art. Photos from A Guest of a Guest, a party blog, show the artist posing in front of the two works at the star-studded event.

Ryan-Klein said in a statement to Artnet News that she had no idea where the painting had ended up until she saw it in the news:

In 2012, as a grad student at the New York Academy of Art, I painted pictures of Presidents Bill Clinton and Bush as part of my Master’s thesis. When the school put on a fundraiser at the Tribeca Ball that year, they sold my painting to one of the attendees. I had no idea who the buyer was at the time. As with most of my paintings, I had completely lost track of this piece when it was sold seven years ago. So it was a complete surprise to me to learn yesterday that it wound up in Epstein’s home.

After graduating from the New York Academy of Art, Ryan-Klein worked as a studio assistant for Jeff Koons in 2015 and 2016 and now does social media marketing for artists in New York.

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