Rendevous with the paper of record: Northampton artist Katy Schneider paints official portrait of New York Times publisher

Katy Schneider’s oil portrait of former New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. is now installed at the newspaper with portraits of other Times publishers. The painting is based on a 1997 photo of Sulzberger Jr., then in his mid 40s.

Katy Schneider’s oil portrait of former New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. is now installed at the newspaper with portraits of other Times publishers. The painting is based on a 1997 photo of Sulzberger Jr., then in his mid 40s. Image courtesy Katy Schneider

Katy Schneider in her Northampton studio with her portrait of former New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. A longtime friend for Sardinia, Corrado Cicalo, is visiting her.

Katy Schneider in her Northampton studio with her portrait of former New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. A longtime friend for Sardinia, Corrado Cicalo, is visiting her. Image courtesy Katy Schneider

“Self Portrait with Mae and Leggings,” a 1998 painting by Schneider with one of her children.

“Self Portrait with Mae and Leggings,” a 1998 painting by Schneider with one of her children. Image courtesy Katy Schneider

Former New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., seen here at Moody College of Communication in Austin, Texas in 2016.

Former New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., seen here at Moody College of Communication in Austin, Texas in 2016. Image by Moody College of Communication/Wikipedia

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 05-17-2024 2:23 PM

Modified: 05-17-2024 3:00 PM


Growing up in New York City, Katy Schneider recalls that the New York Times was pretty much sacrosanct in her home. Her late parents read the paper closely, her father often cutting out articles he particularly liked, and both referred to the newspaper as “an education.”

She says her mother and father would likely have been thrilled, then, that she was commissioned last year to paint the official portrait of former Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., who headed the newspaper from 1992 through 2017 — part of a family tree that has been at the helm of the Times since the late 1890s.

The portrait was unveiled at the Times in April, where Schneider, a Northampton painter for whom portraiture is a key part of her portfolio, met Sulzberger Jr., who’s now 72, for the first time: She had created her painting of him from a single 1997 photograph, when he was in his mid 40s and had been publisher for five years.

It was a tough but rewarding assignment — one for which she says she set aside all her other painting for two months, spending over 200 hours to work on the portrait.

And though she likes to paint her subjects from direct observation, or by taking multiple photos and/or video footage of them, in this case Schneider had just the one photograph and a brief description of the former publisher to work with.

“Painting is an exploration,” she wrote in an email from Japan, where she’s been visiting a family member. “There isn’t a recipe or system for how to successfully accomplish what I am after. In this way I’m always a beginner.”

Schneider, who’s taught art for over 30 years at Smith College, said in an interview with the college’s communications team that Sulzberger Jr.’s portrait also required a huge amount of trial and error.

“I just had to look and paint and look and paint,” she said, until there came a day when “some minor sloshing of paint brought Arthur to life. It was like Pinocchio suddenly turning from wood to a boy. I don’t know what I did, but it worked.”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Northampton school superintendent: Union’s no-confidence vote shows ‘lack of courtesy’
Northampton panel member’s reappointment opposed after ‘ugly’ handicapped access remark
Former social studies teacher returns as principal at Northampton High School
Easthampton Skate Club launches crowdfunding campaign to expand at Eastworks
A ‘Refuse to Lose’ reunion: UMass stars gather to talk about Final Four run for new documentary
Father’s Day 2024: South Hadley’s Rich Marjanski cherishes era coaching his three daughters on the soccer pitch

“I love the ‘Arthur’ it captured from years ago,” Sulzberger Jr. told his former paper when Schneider’s portrait was unveiled last month. “Me with my youthful optimism and a hint of irreverence during a time of great change for The Times.”

Schneider won the commission to paint Sulzberger Jr. last year after Raoul Anchondo, a staff editor at the Times who manages the paper’s art collection, saw some of her work at another exhibit and recommended her to a selection committee that was considering artists for the assignment.

As Anchondo told Smith College, Schneider’s art stood out to all the Times’ committee members.

“She thinks about art and portraiture in a deep way,” he said. “We felt she would provide some consistency with the style of our other portraits, while infusing this one with new vibrancy and energy.”

Sulzberger Jr.’s portrait, showing him in shirt sleeves and red suspenders as he holds a copy of the Times, depicts him at a time when the newspaper was making some significant changes, such as putting color on the front page as well as adding an online edition.

His son, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, became publisher at the end of 2017.

Schneider says she felt some trepidation taking on the Sulzberger Jr. portrait, but probably no more than is typical for her when beginning new work.

“Each painting involves solving a new puzzle,” she told the Gazette. “You have to have faith in the process, in the hunt. If I’m surprised, the viewer will be surprised … like anyone entering new terrain, I’m nervous, exhilarated, sleepless, but have a reason for waking up in the morning.”

Schneider, who got her BA from Yale University and an MFA from Indiana University, won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2004 and has received a number of other honors, including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She has also illustrated a number of children’s books.

Her paintings include still lives and what she calls “interiors,” portraits of family life, including of her own — her husband, David Gloman, is a landscape painter — with some of her earlier work showing her children as they were growing up, playing on the floor as she paints, with toys scattered near her feet.

As her website puts it, she “is a twin in a family of nine. Growing up in a small NYC apartment, her paintings harken back to this upbringing: making the most of a small space, organizing chaos and uncovering human dynamics.”

Schneider is also a longtime musician, a guitarist and singer who has played and recorded with Valley bands such as Jerks on the Loose, a Roches tribute band, and Fancy Trash.

In fact, she likens the work she and her band mates do in “detangling the harmonies” of the Roches to painting.

“When we make the discovery and can repeat our parts with certainty, I feel that same success and joy,” she said. “Performing is gravy. The process matters so much more.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com