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Kehinde Wiley, The First Black Artist To Paint A Presidential Portrait

Kehinde Wiley, The First Black Artist To Paint A Presidential Portrait

The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery commissions an artist to create a portrait of the president and the first lady after their tenure. According to a tradition that can be traced to America’s 41st president, George H. Bush, former president Barack Obama has chosen Artist Kehinde Wiley, known for his paintings of African-Americans to paint his official portrait while the first lady chose Baltimore-based painter Amy Sherald.

Kehinde Wiley is a Nigerian-American portrait painter who is reputed for his highly naturalistic paintings of black people in heroic poses – such as Tiziano Vecellio and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

“The Portrait Gallery is absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have agreed to create the official portraits of our former President and First Lady,” said Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery.

“Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century.”

Some of Wiley’s works include the painting of American entertainers, Michael Jackson, LL Cool J and Notorious B.I.G., Ice T, Grandmaster Flash, Furious Five amongst others.

In an interview with  PRI, Wiley said “Most of the work that we see in the great museums throughout the world is populated with people who don’t happen to look like me.

As a child, I grew up studying and worshipping those great works of Western European painting. But I also wanted to fulfill the goal of feeling a certain personal presence in that work.”

The portraits will be unveiled next year, making Kehinde and Amy the first black artists to create official presidential portraits for the Smithsonian.

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October 18th, 2017

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