Finding Inspiration in Portrait Painter Kehinde Wiley

Until recently, I never really noticed the official portraits of the president’s of the United States of America before. Did you know that former President Richard Nixon’s portrait was painted by Norman Rockwell? That’s actually pretty comical. You might recognize the name of painter, Chuck Close, who did the scary pixelated portrait of former President Bill Clinton.

FDR

Douglas Chandor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1945). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

And my favorite is the portrait of FDR, painted by Douglas Chandor. I like all the hands, the pencil drawing in the corner, the simple background, the rich depth of color, and how the suit was painted.

Portrait Painter Kehinde Wiley

The most recent presidential portrait of former President Barack Obama was painted by the talented Kehinde Wiley. I read an article on variety.com that said the background is made of foliage representing his Chicagoan, Hawaiian, and Kenyan roots. This colorful 7′ tall portrait made me curious about the artist.

obama

Kehinde Wiley, Barack Obama (2018). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

A Combo of High Renaissance, late French Rococo, and the 19th century

I looked him up and discovered some really impressive artwork. His skill shows that he has a lot of training. He often recreates artwork from historical master painters, and updates them according to the statements he wants to make. I like his version of Jacques-Louis David’s painting, Napoleon Crossing the Alps

acques_Louis_David nap on alps

Jacques-Louis David’s version

He used the same composition as the original but with a few changes. In a detail, you can see his humor represented through little sperm swimming around in the background. I love the clothes his random and anonymous subject is wearing. And the gold frame is so impressive. I would hang that in my house. 

While his statements are interesting, thought provoking, powerful, and contribute to the final look of his art; I’m really attracted to the visual part of his paintings. Just stare at the two paintings and study them for a while. 

framed wiley painting

Kehinde Wiley, Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps, 2005, oil paint on canvas, 274.3 x 274.3 cm (108 x 108 in) (Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York) © Kehinde Wiley

His work is intricate, bold, strikingly colorful, powerful, and beautiful. He’s definitely a contemporary artist worth studying. He shows you how to be inspired by other artists and also how to make it your own. He started making strong statements through his artwork while studying at Yale. And he gets to go down in history as a portrait painter for an American President. Check out his confident self portrait of him in his studio at his website.

Controversy

As always in art and anything really, controversy follows Wiley’s portrait of the former President. I think that’s what makes art great though; it stirs up conversation and ideas.

What do you think about Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of Mr. Obama? The former President seemed to like it, and was his usual joking self poking fun at his ears and gray hair, while complimenting the integrity of the painter. 

How about that? Pretty sharp. – President Obama, upon viewing his portrait

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Mystic Midnight Painting

Scanned Image 3

Mystic Midnight

I’m pretty happy with how this spray painting turned out. Notice that there isn’t any sign of life . . . no boat, no bird, no dragon, no human. Usually it’s a good idea to add some kind of life to a painting, but I think the quiet solitude works for this one.

I also cut off the bottom part of the image. Sometimes you can still use a painting even if you’re not happy with a small part of it. Just cut it off.

If you like this painting it’s available to purchase on many products at Redbubble.com. My 2 favorites are the spiral notebook and the tote bag.