Washington’s National Portrait Gallery Unveils Donald Trump’s Picture

The museum's choice may surprise you.

US President-elect Donald Trump. Courtesy of Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images.

Preparations for president-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration are well underway at Washington’s National Portrait Gallery, which holds a collection of American presidential portraiture.

Curators have now selected a 1989 studio photograph by Michael O’Brien from the museum’s collection, which will go on view from January 13.

According to Holland Cotter, who has a great piece in the New York Times on presidential portraits, the image was taken for the cover of Trump’s autobiography Trump: Surviving at the Top, and depicts the president-elect against a sky-blue backdrop tossing a large red apple into the air.

The work will be installed temporarily, presumably until an official portrait of Trump is commissioned when he becomes the 45th president of the United States following his inauguration on January 20th.

The image is reminiscent of René Magritte’s iconic 1964 painting Son of Man which depicts the artist wearing a coat and a hat, his face obscured by an apple floating in front of him. It shows a fresh-faced Trump in his mid-40s when he was best known as a charismatic billionaire property developer rather than a divisive politician.

As the Times notes, the National Portrait Gallery’s choice of image to represent Trump is a marked departure from the more regal portraits in the museum’s permanent exhibition “America’s Presidents,” which includes portraits of each of the United State’s 44 presidents, and will soon add the newly elected 45th political leader.

At the same time the image of Trump fits neatly into the uniformity of the exhibition which shows little ethnic or gender diversity, with the exception of outgoing president Barack Obama.

The works in the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition reflects America’s past in pictures, and shows the men that shaped its history whether they were remembered positively or negatively.

Despite the divisive nature of his election one can only hope that when Trump’s oil painting finally hangs alongside the portraits of his fellow American leaders, that his tenure will be remembered as a positive period in American history.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics