Jonathan Yeo, Kevin Spacey as President Underwood (2015)
Oil on canvas
183cm x 183cm
©Jonathan Yeo 2015
Growing up with a father as an MP means that British artist Jonathan Yeo is comfortable around characterful, powerful, well-known people – an important attribute for a portraitist whose subjects include politicians, actors and royalty. Actor Kevin Spacey - having played Richard III and the US President - is arguably all three.
Commissioned by the Smithsonian to paint Spacey, Yeo presents him in character: as Frank Underwood, the Machiavellian fictional President of the USA from House of Cards. Capturing Underwood’s menacing nature, Yeo depicts him large and threatening, fist clenched and foot poised to kick.
The Smithsonian houses the only complete collection of Presidential portraits outside the White House and it rightly anticipated the acclaim it would receive for blurring reality and fiction when it came to displaying the work. A short film of the unveiling of the portrait was released to promote the fourth season of House of Cards. Underwood addresses the viewer directly, telling us his character is less the noble Lincoln and more the diabolical Booth, Lincoln’s assassin.
Jonathan Yeo has a collaboration with British furniture maker LINLEY planned for summer 2017
For more information, jonathanyeo.com and instagram.com/jonathanyeo
Hedge issue 45, pp70-78, March 2017