The Four Justices
Counterclockwise from bottom left: Sandra Day O’Connor born 1930; Ruth Bader Ginsburg 1933-2020; Elena Kagan born 1960; and Sonia Sotomayor born 1954
In 1880, Belva Lockwood became the first woman to argue before the Supreme Court. Distinguished jurist Florence Allen was considered for the Supreme Court in the 1940s, but opposition, including from the sitting justices, precluded her nomination. It was not until 1981 that Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice. Over ten years later, in 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was nominated by President Clinton. Until 2020, Ginsburg served alongside Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who were nominated to the Supreme Court in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
The Cummings commissioned this portrait to recognize the accomplishments of all four justices. Justice O’Connor’s office arranged their busy schedules so that they could pose at the same time for Nelson Shanks and his camera. The artist drew on the traditions of Dutch group portraiture, and the setting is based on interiors and a courtyard within the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.
Nelson Shanks, 2012
Lent by Ian and Annette Cumming