Uncanny Woven Portraits by Jason Chen Splice Two Moments in Time
December 13, 2023
$4 thrift-store vase sells for $107,100 at auction
December 13, 2023
Uncanny Woven Portraits by Jason Chen Splice Two Moments in Time
December 13, 2023
$4 thrift-store vase sells for $107,100 at auction
December 13, 2023

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG) has unveiled a new portrait of media mogul Oprah Winfrey, painted by the Chicago artist Shawn Michael Warren. Following a ceremony with Winfrey, Warren, Smithsonian director Lonnie Bunch and NPG director Kim Sajet on 13 December, the painting was placed on public display as the latest addition to the museum’s permanent collection.

The portrait, which a height of nearly six feet, depicts Winfrey in her California garden wearing a purple dress and holding an olive branch. Her vibrant, photorealistic gown stands out in the composition, symbolising Winfrey’s breakout role in the 1985 film adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple. The oak tree beside her is one of 12 in her backyard that Winfrey likens to the Twelve Apostles.

Warren has painted Winfrey’s likeness before—in a commissioned mural in Chicago’s West Loop neighbourhood, near the studios which housed TheOprah Winfrey Show between 1990 and 2011. In the new portrait’s description, the Smithsonian says that Warren “grew up watching and admiring Winfrey on television”.

The NPG houses paintings commemorating figures important to US history and culture, and has selected Winfrey as a subject for her position as a “global media leader, philanthropist, producer, actor, author and entrepreneur” who has made “significant contributions to American popular culture”. Speaking about Winfrey at the portrait’s unveiling ceremony, Sajet said: “Through her rise to fame as host and producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah demonstrated an unparalleled ability to connect with people and inspire them to become the best versions of themselves.”

National Portrait Gallery

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Since the NPG’s first commission of a portrait in 1994 (of George H.W. Bush), the museum has facilitated paintings commemorating US presidents, businessmen, athletes, doctors and public figures. Winfrey’s portrait is a continuation of this mission, which seeks to pair living, nationally significant sitters with contemporary artists. Winfrey has made large philanthropic donations to the Smithsonian in the past, and sits on the advisory council of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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