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Art of darkness: Frank Underwood portrait unveiled in Washington DC

by The Art Newspaper  |  23 February 2016
Art of darkness: Frank Underwood portrait unveiled in Washington DC
Kevin Spacey as President Francis J. Underwood, by Jonathan Yeo . Smithsonian, National Portrait Gallery
Life imitates art, and vice versa, in the strangest way with the unveiling of a portrait yesterday (22 February) at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery of Frank Underwood, the dastardly protagonist of the hugely popular Netflix show, House of Cards. The London-based artist Jonathan Yeo has caught the villainous politician on canvas, who has schemed and plotted in the best Machiavellian tradition over three series to become US President. Underwood is played by Kevin Spacey who arrived for the opening reception at the Washington DC gallery “in character”, says a press statement (he even quips as Frank—“I’m pleased that the Smithsonian continues to prove itself as a worthwhile institution,” says Underwood. “I’m one step closer to convincing the rest of the country that I am the President”).

“The work shows Underwood in the Oval office. It’s the largest piece I’ve made. He is bearing down on you, cross-legged, and is very imposing. His foot is painted in sharp focus; it looks like it could come forward and kick you. The work is a little looser stylistically, and might suggest an image flickering across a screen,” Yeo says. But there is a more complex story about how we consume performances, and how important politicians are portrayed, he adds. “It is a question of what people are saying, and pretending to say—and the fact we’re all doing it!” The painting goes on show from 24 February until October. And binge watchers need not fret as season four of House of Cards launches on 4 March.

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