The portrait of Thomas G. Kavanagh (MSC 1969-1984) was recently touched up by none other than the man who painted the portrait in 1994, Sam Knecht. Mr. Knecht, who is an artist in the realist tradition, is the chair of the Art Department at Hillsdale College. The medium used for the Kavanagh portrait is egg tempera on a wooden panel. The medium of egg tempera is older than oil painting and uses egg yolks, water, and dry pigments. According to Mr. Knecht, Justice Kavanagh’s portrait took 80 hours to complete. The Kavanagh portrait is so highly detailed that one can actually read the order he holds in his hand. Mr. Knecht’s work in egg tempera was influenced by artist Andrew Wyeth, whose best known work is Christina’s World. The portrait of Justice Kavanagh is set in the Court’s old courtroom in the Capitol. That courtroom was still in use when Justice Kavanagh joined the Court in 1969; the Court moved to its temporary quarters in the law building on March 3, 1970. The portrait of Thomas Kavanagh now hangs in the entry to the Supreme Court courtroom on the sixth floor of the Hall of Justice. It was dedicated nearly 18 years ago, on August 30, 1994.
The Michigan Supreme Court has had in its history two justices named Thomas Kavanagh. Thomas Matthew Kavanagh was elected first, in 1958. The situation was made more confusing by the fact that their terms on the state’s highest court overlapped. Thus, the two were designated by their middle initials. Thomas Giles became known as Thomas the Good and Thomas Matthew was known as Thomas the Mighty. Thomas the Mighty passed away while on the Court on April 19, 1975.