The official Presidential portrait has, for the first time in history, been painted by an African American; Kehinde Wiley. The artist was born in South Central, Los Angeles in 1977 to an African-American mother and Nigerian father and has painted famous faces such as Michael Jackson, Spike Lee and Biggie Smalls.
The painting of Barack Obama follows Wiley’s renowned naturalistic style of bold, colourful and powerful depictions of black men and women in heroic poses. On the portrait Wiley says: “in a very symbolic way, what I’m doing is charting his path on earth through those plants that weave their way. There’s a fight going on between he in the foreground and the plants that are trying to announce themselves underneath his feet. Who gets to be the star of the show? The story or the man who inhabits that story?”
At the unveiling held at Smithsonian National Portrait gallery in Washington, Obama joked “I tried to negotiate less grey hair, and Kehinde’s artistic integrity would not allow him to do what I asked. I tried to negotiate smaller ears, struck out on that as well”.
See some of our favourite paintings from his previous collections.
All images copyright of Kehinde Wiley.