The Washington Post

Reagan airport artist has sculpted the Gipper five times

If you need a statue of Ronald Reagan, Chas Fagan is your go-to guy: His statue of the Gipper for the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, unveiled Tuesday, is the fifth time the artist has sculpted our 40th president.

A 900-pound statue of former President Ronald Reagan is viewed November 1, 2011, shortly after being unveiled at Ronald Reagan National Airport. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Fagan’s first Reagan sculpture, a bust that sits atop a piece of the Berlin Wall, was for the U.S.S. Reagan. Fagan told the Navy News that his decision to include a piece of the wall in his sculpture was influenced by his major, Soviet studies, at Yale.

“Not long after I got out (of college), President Reagan managed to make that entire field of study just disappear,” said Fagan. He joked that after the wall fell, he had to choose a new occupation — and drawing was the only other thing he did well.

"I have President Reagan to thank for my career in art," he said.

Chas Fagan, sculptor, is profiled next to his bronze relief of former President Ronald Reagan for the U.S.S. Reagan in 2002. (Chad McNeeley)

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According to U.S. News & World Report, Nancy Reagan was so pleased with the likeness that Fagan won commissions to sculpt the couple for Reagan’s presidential library, as well as another sculpture in London’s Grosvenor Square and the statue unveiled today at the airport.

Fagan told U.S. News that his presidential sculpture business came from humble beginnings. In 1997, C-SPAN asked him to provide some artwork of Alexis de Tocqueville for a TV special, and he suggested a foot-high bust. Though he’d never sculpted before, “I called up a sculptor I met only a month before, and he just directed me to pick up some synthetic clay at Michaels,” says Fagan. “I sculpted it and baked it in my own oven and sacrificed a lasagna dish.”

A statue of former President Ronald Reagan is seen after its unveiling ceremony at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport November 1, 2011. (Alex Wong/GETTY IMAGES)

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts.


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