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Art by & About African-Americans

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Image of After Memling’s Portrait of a Man with a Letter

© Kehinde Wiley. Used by permission

After Memling’s Portrait of a Man with a Letter

24 1/2 x 19 3/4 x 4 13/16 in. (62.2 x 50.1 x 12.2 cm)

Kehinde Wiley
United States

Object Type: Painting
Medium and Support: Oil on wood panel in artist-designed hand-fabricated wood frame
Credit Line: Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Accession Number: 2013.79
Location: Currently on view
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This portrait is one of eight in Kehinde Wiley’s series based upon the work of Northern Renaissance painter Hans Memling (1430–1494). Memling created sensitive, quiet portraits of the growing merchant class of his time set within landscapes and cast in natural light. Here, Wiley blends Memling’s style with contemporary street culture in a way that elevates and immortalizes his modern sitter, a resident of Brooklyn, Rafton Glean (his name is painted on the doors of the frame).

Wiley has explained, “I try to use the black body in my work to counter the absence of that body in museum spaces throughout the world.” In 2018, the artist was chosen by President Barack Obama to paint his official portrait (right), now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. At the unveiling, the President commended Wiley for his ability to show “the beauty and the grace and the dignity” of black people.

[Label text for Hawks Gallery reinstallation, summer 2019]

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