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The esthetic of courtroom sketches

March 26, 2012

People are really curious about what’s really happening in US courtroom during trials, especially for the big cases or historical cases. Since cameras are not allowed in many jurisdictions, the outside public can only rely on one person in the courtroom to show them in images what’s going on in courtrooms. That person is the courtroom sketch artist who attends judicial proceedings as member of the public. William Hennessy confirmed that reliability with his book called ALL RISE which is a collection of his more memorable trial that he put all together to create a wonderful work .

William Hennessy is one of the preeminent artists who worked in the field of courtroom for twenty five years and has developed an outstanding expertise in the field. His work is available on his website under the link ,where his biography, gallery, and book are available. Videos are also available in form of interview in which Hennessy talks about his work of art and his career as a courtroom sketch artist.

The work of William Hennessy is a tremendous realization because his book gathered a huge amount of actions that had happened in courts and he captured them exactly like they happened. To me what makes the beauty of his art is the fact that he captured the actions simultaneously while they were happening without missing any details. The sketches he shows in his book reflect emotions, gestures, facial expressions, body language, and even unexpected action like fights or when a prisoner is trying to escape. In other words his sketches are alive because when you looking at them you may feel like you are present at the scene living the actions. Having examined a lot of his sketches I noticed that some of the action that he captured had happed in a matter of seconds, yet he never missed any details which mean that he captures the images in his memory and reproduces them simultaneously. The sketches bellow show a prisoner trying to escape and a defendant punching his attorney

The most important and significant thing about his sketches is the fact that they narrate the judicial proceeding to the outside public who don’t attend trials and do not have any other mean to figure out what exactly happened in courtroom. To prevent distractions and to preserve the privacy of those participating in court proceedings, cameras are not allowed in courtroom. So it makes perfectly sense when Elizabeth Williams who completed sketches from the famous Bernard Madoff sentencing says “my job is to show the public what happened, I am their eyes”. This shows the importance of the courtroom sketcher in the courtroom. After a deep analysis of William Hennesy’s work of art, I deducted that without the courtroom sketch artist, American trials would be a mystery to the outside public that perhaps would just know the judge decision by the media but would not have any images to satisfy their visual curiosity.

The work of William Hennessy reflects some political and historical aspect of the American society. As he captured in some of his sketches some historical cases, he also captured the case of some political figures of this country. Let’s take the example of the Mayor Marion Barry’s case and the historical case of Zacaria Moussaoui about the 9/11 terrorism attack in New York.  The sketches bellow show those particular two cases that he captured and included in his book ALL RISE.

The William Hennessy work of art is a great realization that deserves lot of credits. He succeeded to capture and expose the courtroom proceedings to the outside public that now has the opportunity to see in images what’s really going on in US courtrooms, but also to admire a stupendous work of art.


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