Allen Mims Photography Jamie Lee McMahan decided to become a full-time portrait painter after a two-year trip around the world.
A 1965 graduate of The University of Memphis, where he studied fine art and mathematics, he pursued dual careers for years. He was a marketing rep for IBM in the U.S. and Sydney, Australia and, when time permitted, he painted.
The great museums of the world were the inspiration that opened the window for the artist. Although he admired various art styles and periods, he was most often drawn to the great portraits, to the masterpieces of Sargent, Chase, Raeburn, Velasquez and others.
He has painted U.S. senators, governors, mayors, judges, university presidents, pets and a wide range of subjects in private collections. Among the many portraits by McMahan is Alex Haley, author of Roots. “Being a portrait artist enables me to get to know people on a personal level like no other profession I know of. Alex Haley is a good example. We sat down to discuss the project and pretty soon we were talking about family and writing and things that made his personality really come out. That would never have happened if we were talking about computers.”
The artist is an avid student of art history. “The more I read about the masters, the more I realize that the procedure hasn’t changed that much. It’s still about putting paint on canvas and seeing. But every year, the old masters seem to get smarter. I really like the words of the great Robert Henri, ‘Art when understood is the province of every human being.’ ”