Michael Jackson’s personal artist shared pop king’s vision
Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
SANTA FE — Artist David Nordahl was at home painting in February 1988 when the phone rang at midnight. A voice said, “This is Michael Jackson.”
Yeah, riiiight, he thought. But he quickly realized the call was no prank.
While visiting Steven Spielberg’s office, Jackson had admired one of Nordahl’s paintings of Army troops invading an Apache camp as a young corporal shielded two Indian children. Now the singer was reaching out to the painter. For art lessons.
“He asked if I taught drawing and painting,” says Nordahl, whose realist oils of 19th-century Apaches are highly prized. “I told him I didn’t, but that I’d think about it. I was really busy.”
Their hour-long conversation sparked a close friendship and working partnership that led Nordahl to abandon renown in the art world for a cloistered vocation as Jackson’s portraitist. From 1988 to 2005, Nordahl completed thousands of drawings and roughly a dozen epic commissions, seven of which were among 2,000 Jackson items in Julien’s authorized auction, which the singer sued to stop last spring.