One of the greatest challenges in bringing the story of Nathan “Nearest” Green to life was the lack of any pictures of him. Although his family shared hundreds of original photos and documents with us – many of them discovered in the home of one of Nearest’s granddaughter in Lynchburg, TN and one of his great granddaughters in St. Louis, MO – no one was certain what Nearest looked like.
We searched for an artist who could capture the spirit of Nearest and what were likely many of his attributes by studying images of his children and grandchildren and speaking to those who knew them. A few things were common among his descendants: they were tall, stood with their heads held high, spoke with great confidence and were always dressed to the nines. They somehow went from slavery to elite society.
We asked artist, Raymond Bonilla, to do his best to capture that. And we think he did a great job. This is his first painting in a series of three paintings commissioned to bring the story of Nearest Green to life.
(JULY 2017 UPDATE: We believe a photo of Nearest Green has finally been found! In the photo album of a deceased family member, we believe the well-kept image from the late nineteenth century may in fact be the image NGF has searched all over the U.S. to find. Once confirmed against additional family photos from the same time period, we will share the image here first.)