WASHINGTON, February 13, 2018: For my money, the best presidential portrait is by the great John Singer Sargent. The recent unveiling of President Obama’s Presidential Portrait for the National Portrait Gallery America’s President’s display has the Internet talking.
A man in tune with his nation
John Singer Sargent’s 1903 painting shows Theodore Roosevelt standing tall at the bottom of a staircase.
His left fist pressed against his hip, staring resolutely at the world through his pince-nez spectacles. His right-hand grips the banister’s finial like a colossus grasping the globe.
It perfectly captures a larger-than-life president ushering in a new American century.
That creepy Obama Presidential portrait otherness
Monday, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery unveiled its latest official Presidential portrait, a facsimile of America’s 44th president, Barack Hussein Obama.
Painted by artist Kehinde Wiley, in his Presidential portrait, Obama sits in a nondescript chair, looking angerly at the world, arms crossed in a sign of isolation, as a curtain of ivy engulfs him.
This President has moved on
The power tie is gone. He wears an open shirt collar, possibly indicating his work day is done.
Obama seems to be over the nation that rejects the defender of his legacy, Hillary Clinton; consumed by a simmering bitterness as he is by the green nature surrounding him.
“The way in which the body is seen has a lot to do with light,” says artist Wiley in a video posted by the Brooklyn Museum. “How does the artist choose to allow light to flow across the body?”
Those dead eyes follow you around the room
But what explains Obama’s uncomfortable demeanor?
Could it be his failure to prevent a Trump presidency? The use of Deep State entities like the Justice Department, FBI, and secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to stop a duly elected president?
Or could it be his flimsy legacy, from Obamacare to regulatory executive orders, so easily undone by successor Donald Trump, which has spurred an economic boom over the previously dreary, “new normal” economy?
Once you get beyond the eyes, take a good look at what the Internet is saying about Obama’s five-fingered hand:
Does Obama really has SIX Fingers on his left hand???
This portrait has 6 Fingers ⤵
The thumb is obviously not showing but if you look on the other edge of the hand, the pinky is hiding halfway!!! pic.twitter.com/ziChi5FVsy
— Simply_RED4DJT? (@TrueVoice7345) February 13, 2018
The paintings hanging in the National Portrait Gallery are not the standard White House hallway fare. They are unique and, particularly in the more modern images, meant to reflect the person, not just the president.
George Washinton’s official portrait features the first President with a “sour’ demeanor.Not every portrait flatters. Portrait painter Gilbert Stuart tried to explain why his image of Washington is less than cheerful:
“When I painted him, he had just had a set of false teeth inserted, which accounts for the constrained expression so noticeable about the mouth and lower part of the face.”
A bit of trivia: Stuart’s unfinished portrait of President Washington is the image used on the $1 bill.
Englishman Isaac Weld Jr. met the illustrious artist Gilbert Stuart sometime in 1797, writing to a friend:
“Mr. Stuart, the eminent portrait painter, told me that there are features in his [George Washington’s] face totally different from what he ever observed in that of any other human being. The sockets of the eyes, for instance, are larger than what he ever met with before, and the upper part of the nose is broader. All his features, he observed, were indicative of the strongest and most ungovernable passions, and had he been born in the forests, it was his opinion that he would have been the fiercest man amongst the savage tribes.”
Eminent portrait painter Kehinde Wiley, on the other hand, has masterfully captured the dying light in the eyes of a timorous and fading Chicago community organizer.