President Barack Obama

image for President Barack Obama
Exhibition Label
Forty-fourth president, 2009–2017
Barack Obama made history in 2009 by becoming the first African American president. The former Illinois state senator’s election signaled a feeling of hope for the future even as the U.S. was undergoing its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. While working to improve the economy, Obama enacted the Affordable Care Act, extending health benefits to millions of previously uninsured Americans. Overseas, he oversaw the drawdown of American troops in the Middle East—a force reduction that was controversially replaced with an expansion of drone and aviation strikes. Though his mission to kill al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was successful, his pledge to close the Guantanamo prison went unrealized.
Artist Kehinde Wiley is known for his vibrant, large-scale paintings of African Americans posing as famous figures from the history of Western art. This portrait does not include an underlying art historical reference, but some of the flowers in the background carry special meaning for Obama. The chrysanthemums, for example, reference the official flower of Chicago. The jasmine evokes Hawaii, where he spent the majority of his childhood, and the African blue lilies stand in for his late Kenyan father.
44o presidente, 2009–2017
Barack Obama hizo historia en 2009 al convertirse en el primer presidente afroamericano de Estados Unidos. La elección del ex senador por el estado de Illinois generó un sentimiento universal de esperanza, aun cuando en ese momento Estados Unidos atravesaba su peor crisis financiera desde la Gran Depresión. A la vez que tomaba medidas para mejorar la economía, Obama promulgó la Ley del Cuidado de Salud a Bajo Precio, extendiendo los beneficios médicos a millones de ciudadanos que hasta entonces carecían de seguro de salud. En el ámbito exterior, dispuso la reducción de tropas estadounidenses en el Oriente Medio— reducción acompañada por una polémica expansión de los ataques con aviones y drones—. Aunque tuvo éxito en su misión de dar muerte al fundador de al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, su promesa de cerrar la prisión de Guantánamo quedó sin cumplir.
El artista Kehinde Wiley es conocido por sus vibrantes pinturas de gran formato donde presenta afroamericanos posando como figuras famosas plasmadas en el arte occidental. Si bien este retrato carece de esas referencias a la historia del arte, algunas de las flores del fondo tienen un significado especial para Obama. Los crisantemos, por ejemplo, son la flor oficial de Chicago. El jazmín evoca a Hawái, donde pasó gran parte de su niñez, y los lirios las africanaos representan a su difunto padre, natural de Kenia.
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Gift of Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg; Judith Kern and Kent Whealy; Tommie L. Pegues and Donald A. Capoccia; Clarence, DeLoise, and Brenda Gaines; The Stoneridge Fund of Amy and Marc Meadows; Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker; Catherine and Michael Podell; Mark and Cindy Aron; Lyndon J. Barrois and Janine Sherman Barrois; The Honorable John and Louise Bryson; Paul and Rose Carter; Bob and Jane Clark; Lisa R. Davis; Shirley Ross Davis and Family; Alan and Lois Fern; Conrad and Constance Hipkins; Sharon and John Hoffman; Daniel and Kimberly Johnson; John Legend and Chrissy Teigen; Eileen Harris Norton; Helen Hilton Raiser; Philip and Elizabeth Ryan; Roselyne Chroman Swig; Josef Vascovitz and Lisa Goodman; Michele J. Hooper and Lemuel Seabrook III; The Skylark Foundation; Cleveland and Harriette Chambliss; Anna Chavez and Eugene Eidenberg; Carla Diggs & Stephen M. Smith; Danny First; Peggy Woodford Forbes and Harry Bremond; Stephen Friedman Gallery; Sean and Mary Kelly, Sean Kelly Gallery; Jamie Lunder; Joff Masukawa and Noëlle Kennedy Masukawa; Derek McGinty and Cheryl Cooper; Robert and Jan Newman; The Raymond L. Ocampo Jr. and Sandra O. Ocampo Family Trust; Julie and Bennett Roberts; Paul Sack; Gertrude Dixon Sherman; Michael and Mary Silver; V. Joy Simmons, MD; Andrea Lavin Solow and Alan P. Solow; John Sykes; Galerie Templon; Henry L. Thaggert III
Restrictions & Rights
© 2018 Kehinde Wiley
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
America's Presidents (Reinstallation September 2017)
On View
NPG, West Gallery 210
Object number
Kehinde Wiley, born 1977
Barack Hussein Obama, born 4 Aug 1961
Home Furnishings\Furniture
Nature & Environment\Plant\Flower\Flowers
Barack Hussein Obama: Male
Barack Hussein Obama: Law and Law Enforcement\Lawyer
Barack Hussein Obama: Politics and Government\President of US
Barack Hussein Obama: Politics and Government\US Senator\Illinois
Barack Hussein Obama: Politics and Government\State Senator\Illinois
Barack Hussein Obama: Nobel Prize
Oil on canvas
Stretcher: 213.7 × 147 × 3.2 cm (84 1/8 × 57 7/8 × 1 1/4")
Frame: 234.3 × 167 × 10 cm (92 1/4 × 65 3/4 × 3 15/16")
National Portrait Gallery