|The art world has been electrified by Kehinde Wiley’s presidential portrait of Barack Obama for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, which was unveiled last month. Presidential yet contemporary, it portrays an engaged Obama, in front of symbolic greenery.
So we thought we’d share some presidential portrait history. Did you know this is not the first portrait of a president to be considered outside-of-the-Presidential-portrait-box? In the past century, other presidents have been painted in contemporary fashions.
Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley
oil on canvas, 2018
Kehinde Wiley is known for his vibrant, large-scale paintings of African Americans. The flowers in the background have a significant meaning: the chrysanthemums are the official flower of Chicago, the jasmine represents Obama’s home state of Hawaii, and the African blue lilies pay homage to his late Kenyan father.