The Easel

20th February 2018

The Obama portraits are direct, vital, and above all, cool

The “immensely striking“ presidential portraits have unleashed a deluge of commentary, a fraction of it about the art. As Morgan Meis argued last year, figurative art is having a renaissance because of its narrative power. Kehinde Wiley in particular exemplifies this. His portraits of black men striking Old Masters’ poses redistribute “the aesthetic power of art … [the Obama work] has the aesthetic effect of a baroque portrait”.

13th February 2018

Nixon’s Angels

In 1975 Nixon did a portrait of his wife and her three sisters. They agreed to a repeat the following year – and now there is a sequence of 43 such annual portraits. “The Brown Sisters” has brought fame and exemplifies Nixon’s broad body of work – a “dogged inquisitiveness into … the fragility, resilience and hope that arise from our human connections. [His images] aren’t always pretty, but their beauty is resounding.”