Just the fourth woman to solo win the annual distinction, TIME on Wednesday announced German Chancellor Angela Merkel won its coveted Person of the Year Award. To see Merkel, who emerged this year as a leader within the EU in handling of the Syrian refugee crisis, grace the cover of the magazine is a proud moment not only for Germany, but for women across the world. But there's something about Angela Merkel's TIME cover that make it stand out from those that have come before.
Under the caption "Chancellor of the Free World" — which, by the way, kind of trumps "Leader of the Free World," doesn't it? — Merkel's stark image is captured in an oil painting created by artist Colin Davidson. Merkel's blue eyes is the key element in Davidson's painting that draws the viewer into her story, TIME's creative director said in an interview with the magazine. Since 2010, Davidson, who works out of Belfast, has received international acclaim for his large oil portraits. His subjects include Brad Pitt and poets Sinead Morrissey and Seamus Heaney.
"I have become increasingly preoccupied, not with a sitter’s celebrity but more with their status as a human being," Davidson told TIME. "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."
Dignity, compassion, humanity — three words that could underline any biography of Merkel, depending on who you ask though, of course. She's not without controversy, such as her hard-line views on Greece's bailouts or her her defense of Germany’s cooperation with American surveillance practices, even though she may have been one of the NSA's targets.
But 2015 marked a pivotal year for her legacy and her country. Amid an ever increasing crisis in Europe with the massive influx of Syrian refugees, Merkel stepped forward virtually alone in declaring that Germany would "cope" and figure out a way to adjust so that its borders could accept Syrian refugees escaping their war-torn home. Germany is expected to take in one million refugees by the end of this year.
For 10 years (and counting), Merkel has arguably made Germany become the most powerful European country and a leader of the EU. It's time she was recognized for what she's accomplished as Germany's first female chancellor in history.