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The Weak in Portraits: Obama Edition

(Steven Hayward) The unveiling of the portraits of the Obamas for the National Portrait Gallery puts me in mind of Winston Churchill’s reaction to the ghastly Graham Sutherland portrait (left) presented to him for his 80th birthday, which Churchill (a talented painter in his own right, keep in mind—see his great short essay “Painting as a Pastime”) called “a remarkable example of modern art,” to much laughter in the audience. That was, of course, his way of saying he didn’t like it. Clementine Churchill later had the painting destroyed in a backyard bonfire, which the artist, Sutherland, complained bitterly was “an act of vandalism.”
The real vandalism was letting Sutherland paint Churchill in the first place. And ponder the vandalism that is the official portraits the Obamas apparently chose for themselves and approve. You may think the Obamas simply have no taste, but the departure from the traditional mode of presidential

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