Commissioned by Time magazine, Philip Pearlstein's portrait of Henry Kissinger appeared on the magazine's cover in conjunction with the release of the first volume of Kissinger's memoirs, The White House Years, in October 1979. In his book, Kissinger reflected on his career as assistant for national security affairs and secretary of state. Excerpts published in Time described his complicated relationship with President Richard Nixon, as well as the challenges of Cold War diplomacy.
Picturing Kissinger with a look of intense concentration, Pearlstein's portrait conveys his subject's seriousness of purpose and intellectual intensity, the same qualities reflected in his memoirs. The pose was no mere conceit. Unable to sit still for extended periods of time, Kissinger agreed to read while Pearlstein painted, thus enabling the artist to capture the very image of the statesman at work.