Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley was born in 1977 in Los Angeles, USA. Wiley is an American Portrait Painter, currently based in New York, he is widely known for his colourful and vibrant naturalistic portraits of African Americans (Wiley, 2021). Wiley studied a BFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1999 and then onto an MFA at Yale University in 2001.

President Barack Obama, 2018, Oil on Canvas
213.7 cm (84.1 in) × 147 cm (58 in) × 3.2 cm (1.3 in)

Kehinde Wiley began his work by painting those he identified with – African American men. Wiley studied painting portraits and honing his skills whilst at University by copying the great masters, and this influence can be clearly seen (Wiley, 2021). Rather than celebrating and painting well known individuals, aristocrats or those with huge advantage Wiley looks closer at the average person often finding them on the streets of America. The painting above of Barack Obama is of course an exception to this general rule in Wiley’s work. The work below however represents what Wiley works to achieve in capturing these strangers on the street in different locations across America (Wiley, 2021).


Wiley also uses bright vibrant and patterned backgrounds in his portraits, they act as decorative pieces which take the figures from their original environments into a whole new world. In contrast to this as Wiley moved on to his World Stage Series where he depicted persons of different nationalities from countries such as Brazil, Nigeria and China, Wiley would take inspiration from these locations and use motifs in order to link the figures with their culture and location (Wiley, 2021).


Kehinde Wiley, 2021, About, viewed on 18/08/2021 []

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