See the 100 Years of Presidential Portraits Leading Up to Kehinde Wiley’s Much-Debated Barack Obama

Show of the Day: "America's Presidents" (plus Barack Obama's presidential portrait) at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC.

Former US President Barack Obama unveils his portrait alongside the portrait's artist, Kehinde Wiley, at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Photo credit should read Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.
Kehinde Wiley and Barack Obama at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

“AMERICA’S PRESIDENTS”

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

What the Museum Says: “‘America’s Presidents’ lies at the very heart of the museum’s mission to tell the American story through individuals who have shaped the country. It showcases multiple images of the past 44 U.S. presidents, starting with Washington and continuing to Barack Obama.”

Why It’s Worth a Look: The NPG’s treasures are many, and the highlights of its keystone exhibition, “America’s Presidents,” include Gilbert Stuart’s prized “Lansdowne” portrait of George Washington. Given the recent excitement around the unveiling of Barack Obama’s official portrait and the fact that today is President’s Day, we’ve specifically assembled the last century’s worth of Commander-in-Chief imagery from the NPG, beginning with Woodrow Wilson (whose term spanned 1913-21). The result gives a look at the evolution of the form, from the rather drab daubings of Harding and Hoover, to Norman Rockwell‘s beaming Nixon, to the artier renditions of Kennedy and Clinton, to the vibrant, almost-surrealist vision of painter Kehinde Wiley‘s just-debuted Obama.

John Christen Johansen, <em>Woodrow Wilson</em> (ca. 1919). Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

John Christen Johansen, Woodrow Wilson (ca. 1919). Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Margaret Lindsay Williams, <em>Warren G. Harding</em> (1923). Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Margaret Lindsay Williams, Warren G. Harding (1923). Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Joseph E. Burgess, <em> Calvin Coolidge</em> (1956). Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Joseph E. Burgess, Calvin Coolidge (1956). Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Douglas Chandor, <em>Herbert Hoover</em> (1931). Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Douglas Chandor, Herbert Hoover (1931). Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

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

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

Jay Wesley Jacobs, <em> Harry S. Truman</em> (1945). Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Jay Wesley Jacobs, Harry S. Truman (1945). Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Thomas E. Stephens, <em> Dwight D. Eisenhower</em> (1955). Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Thomas E. Stephens, Dwight D. Eisenhower (1955). Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Elaine de Kooning's John F. Kennedy (1963). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Elaine de Kooning, John F. Kennedy (1963). © 1963 Elaine de Kooning Trust. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Peter Hurd's Lyndon Baines Johnson (1967). Gift of the artist, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Peter Hurd, Lyndon Baines Johnson (1967). Gift of the artist, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Norman Rockwell's Richard Nixon (1968). Courtesy of the Richard Nixon Foundation and the National Portrait Gallery.

Norman Rockwell, Richard Nixon (1968). Courtesy of the Richard Nixon Foundation and the National Portrait Gallery.

Everett Raymond Kinstler's Gerald R. Ford (1987). Courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation and the National Portrait Gallery.

Everett Raymond Kinstler, Gerald R. Ford (1987). Courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation and the National Portrait Gallery.

Robert Templeton's Jimmy Carter (1980). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Robert Templeton, Jimmy Carter (1980). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Everett Raymond Kinstler's Ronald Reagan (1991). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Everett Raymond Kinstler, Ronald Reagan (1991). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Ronald N. Sherr, George H.W. Bush (1994–5). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Ronald N. Sherr, George H.W. Bush (1994–5). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Chuck Close, William J. Clinton (2006). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Chuck Close, William J. Clinton (2006). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Robert Anderson, George W. Bush (2006). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Robert Anderson, George W. Bush (2006). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

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

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


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