Donald Trump Hung a Painting of Himself Chilling With Abraham Lincoln in the White House—and the Internet Is Going Nuts About It
The work by Andy Thomas contains a subtle feminist message.
Earlier this year, the self-taught Missouri artist Andy Thomas updated his fanciful painting of Republican presidents sitting around a barroom table to include a flattering and noticeably slimmed-down rendering of Donald Trump. Now, President Trump has hung a version of the painting in the White House.
Now in the presidential dining room, the fantastical painting shows Trump smiling around a table alongside presidents Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush.
The internet was alerted to the new addition to the White House decor after an eagle-eyed journalist, Josh Billinson of the Independent Journalism Review, spotted the painting in the background of Trump’s recent 60 Minutes interview.
It didn’t take long for the image to go viral. Critics of the work are calling it “garish” and “kitschy.” Others have noted that where the other presidents appear to be drinking scotch or wine, Trump—a proud teetotaler—appears to be enjoying a glass of Diet Coke.
The picture has also inspired some amusing remixes. Many commenters were quick to draw comparisons to Cassius Marcellus Coolidge’s famous (and much more interesting than you may think) painting Dogs Playing Poker. Others added the specter of Putin hovering over Trump’s shoulder, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman across the table.
As it turns out, the president was gifted the print of Andy Thomas’s The Republican Club by Republican congressman Darrell Issa, who himself sat for the artist a few years ago and may have paid up to $1,700 for one of 45 editions of the work (unless the artist offered it gratis).
Trump liked the gift so much that he called Thomas to congratulate him on his handiwork. Thomas, a self-taught cowboy painter who occasionally dips into political portraiture, tells TIME he was “ecstatic” to find out Trump had hung the piece.
According to the artist, the president told him, “Most portraits of me I really don’t like.” (This should come as no surprise given the amount of caricatures Trump has inspired.) In order to get the president’s smile just right, Thomas said he looked at thousands of photos until he found one that looked candid enough to commit to canvas. “Trump has that one thing where he sticks his chin up and smiles really big, and it’s great for a caricature but not necessarily flattering to him,” Thomas explained.
During their call, Trump also reportedly asked Thomas to weigh in on how he was doing as president. “I’m thinking, ‘I’m a damn artist, what is he asking me about this for?’” Thomas said.
Thomas, who usually paints cowboys and scenes of the Old West, first delved into political painting with a work featuring eight Republican presidents and eight Democrats playing poker, and he has previously painted a Democratic Party analogue to Trump’s painting, The Democratic Club.
On his website, Thomas explains there is a subtle feminist message to the work in the form of a shadowy female figure approaching the table in the background. “That will be the first Republican female president,” Thomas explained, adding that it isn’t meant to be a commentary on Trump or #MeToo, and that the figure also appears in the Democrat version of the painting.
Speaking to the Daily Beast, Thomas declined to discuss his own political leanings: “I challenge people to look at the paintings and see if they can figure it out.”
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