"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Henry Louis Gates Jr.

This 2011 portrait of Henry Louis Gates Jr. by Yuqi Wang hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
"The author of numerous books, including Life Upon These Shores (2011), Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates is one of today's most prominent public intellectuals. He has cast a wide net of influence across generations with a variety of publications about African American history and culture, combined with frequent public appearances. Yuqi Wang's portrait refers to 1975, when Gates 'decided to become an academic.' During that year, Gates was on a fellowship at Cambridge University, where he encountered professors Wole Soyinka and Anthony Appiah, whose books are included here on the table along with W.E.B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk (1903). The sculpture next to them represents the Yoruba god Esu Elegbara. Gates's analysis of the relevance of this god to black literary theory appears in his influential Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African American Literary Criticism (1988). Wang balances the composition with purple freesia, a personal reference to Cambridge, England, and Gates's pivotal year there." -- National Portrait Gallery

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