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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

LL Cool J

This 2005 painting of LL Cool J (b. 1968) by Kahinde Wiley hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. It was lent to the Gallery by LL Cool J.
"Hip hop star and actor James Todd Smith III changed his name to LL Cool J (short for 'Ladies Love Cool James') at sixteen, when he released his first single, 'I Need a Beat.' In the late 1980s, the success of his recordings helped make Def Jam a major label: his broad popular appeal and nine consecutive multiplatinum albums were significant in transforming rap from an underground genre to a mainstream cultural force. He has also crossed over to acting, both in film (Toys, Rollerball), and television (30 Rock, House); currently, he costars in the series NCIS: Los Angeles.

Kehinde Wiley was commissioned to paint LL Cool J for the VH1 Hip Hop Honors program in September 2005. Inspired by Ron Chernow's biography of John D. Rockefeller, LL Cool J wanted this portrait to have a pose similar to that in John Singer Sargent's painting of the philanthropist." -- National Portrait Gallery

In the video below, David C. Ward, historian at the National Portrait Gallery, describes this painting and compares it to Sargent's 1917 portrait of John D. Rockefeller.

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