Artist Colin Davidson with his painting of Angela Merkel commissioned for the cover of TIME's 2015 Person of the Year Issue.
Artist Colin Davidson with his painting of Angela Merkel commissioned for the cover of TIME's 2015 Person of the Year issue TIME

Behind TIME's Person of the Year Cover

Dec 09, 2015

At TIME we have always enjoyed the challenge of creating compelling cover portraits. Over the years, we’ve commissioned artists from Marc Chagall to Roy Lichtenstein to Andy Warhol; for this Person of the Year, creative director D.W. Pine reached out to Colin Davidson to make an oil painting of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “For me, it’s about the eyes,” D.W. says. “The realistic detail of his subjects’ eyes draws the viewer in closer to fully appreciate the sculptural use of his bold brushstrokes.” Davidson lives and works near Belfast; since 2010 his focus has been on grand-scale portraits, which have won many international awards. “I have become increasingly preoccupied, not with a sitter’s celebrity but more with their status as a human being,” says Davidson. “Although likeness is vital in my practice, it is my hope that a sense of the German Chancellor’s dignity, compassion and humanity is woven into the paint.”

Read More: TIME's 2015 Person of the Year Is Angela Merkel

We choose as Person of the Year the individual who has had the greatest influence, for better or worse, on the world and the news each year. The process invariably inspires a lively debate. While on occasion we have named groups, such as last year’s Ebola Fighters, and even objects (the Computer in 1982), we have not named an individual woman since Philippine President Corazon Aquino in 1986. “The label of Person of the Year tends to favor people with institutional power,” notes deputy managing editor Radhika Jones, who oversaw this issue. “In that sense, we’re not breaking with tradition. It’s a lot easier to make news from an address like the White House or the Vatican — or in this case, the Chancellery.”

I was reminded of the rich history of Person of the Year when I had dinner last summer with Ambassador Ken Adelman and saw his collection of signed covers. It includes Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela and Vladimir Putin. He does not, however, have Queen Elizabeth II (1952); he was informed that the Queen only signs official documents.

See Every Person Of The Year Cover Ever

Greta Thunberg Time Person of the Year Cover
Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva for TIME
Greta Thunberg Time Person of the Year Cover
2016: Donald Trump person of the year
TIME person of the year angela merkel 2015
TIME Person of the Year 2014 Magazine Cover: The Ebola Fighters 141222
2013: Pope Francis
2012: Barack Obama
2011: The Protester
2010: Mark Zuckerberg
2008: Barack Obama
2007: Vladimir Putin
2005: The Good Samaritans: Bill Gates, Bono, Melinda Gates
2004: President George W. Bush
2003: The American Soldier
2002: The Whistleblowers
2001: Rudy Giuliani
2000: President George W. Bush
1999: Jeff Bezos
1998: Kenneth Starr ad Bill Clinton
1997: Andrew Grove
1994: Pope John Paul II
1991: Ted Turner
1989: Mikhail Gorbachev
1987: Mikhail Gorbachev
1986: Corazon Aquino
1985: Deng Xiaoping
1984: Peter Ueberroth
1983: President Ronald Reagan and Yuri Andropov
1981: Lech Wałęsa
1980: President Ronald Reagan
1979: Ayatollah Khomeini
1978: Deng Xiaoping
1977: Anwar Sadat
1975: American Women
1973: John Sirica
1972: President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger
1971: President Richard Nixon
1970: Willy Brandt
1969: The Middle Americans
1968: The Apollo 8 astronauts
1967: President Lyndon B. Johnson
1965: William Westmoreland
1964: Lyndon B. Johnson
1963: Martin Luther King, Jr.
1962: Pope John XXIII
1961: President John F. Kennedy
1960: U.S. Scientists
1959: President Dwight D. Eisenhower
1958: Charles de Gaulle
1957: Nikita Khrushchev
1955: Harlow Curtice
1954: John Foster Dulles
1953: Konrad Adenauer
1952: Queen Elizabeth II
1951: Mohammad Mossadegh
1950: The American Fighting Man
1949: Winston Churchill
1948: President Harry S. Truman
1946: James F. Byrnes
1945: President Harry S. Truman
1944: Dwight D. Eisenhower
1943: George Marshall
1942: Joseph Stalin
1941: President Franklin D. Roosevelt
1940: Winston Churchill
1939: Joseph Stalin
1938: Adolf Hitler
1937: Chiang Kai-shek and Soong May-ling
1936: Wallis Simpson
1935: Haile Selassie
1934: President Franklin D. Roosevelt
1933: Hugh S. Johnson
1932: Franklin D. Roosevelt
1931: Pierre Laval
1930: Mahatma Gandhi
1929: Owen D. Young
1928: Walter Chrysler
TIME Man of the Year 1927: Charles Lindbergh
Photograph by Evgenia Arbugaeva for TIME
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