What’s different about this official presidential portrait? Just about everythin…

What’s different about this official presidential portrait? Just about everything. Instead of the usual dull-toned background of desks and books and marble columns, President Barack Obama is surrounded by brightly colored foliage and flowers in his 2018 portrait by Kehinde Wiley. And while smartly attired in a dark blue suit, this president breaks with tradition by going tie-less.

Wiley is not the first African-American presidential portrait artist – that honor goes to Simmie Knox, who painted President Bill Clinton – but he must be the first to also paint hip-hop icons like LL Cool J, Ice T and Big Daddy Kane.

Wiley’s art, including his striking Old Masters-inspired stained-glass pieces, will be the topic of our next lecture. Connie Choi, associate curator for the permanent collection of The Studio Museum in Harlem, will present “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic” on Thursday, February 20, at 6 p.m. at Rosecliff. For more information or to register, visit
Curator Connie Choi offers insights into the works of Kehinde Wiley, the official portraitist of President Barack Obama. Wiley draws on the tradition of classical painting masters such as Titian, Van Dyck, Ingres and David to create portraits and stained-glass works that are drenched in color and abounding in adornment. His subjects are young black and mixed-race people; the result is a collision where art history and popular culture come face to face.

Source: Preservation Society of Newport County

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