On Friday, Jan. 13, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery did what it’s always done before the inauguration of a new president and revealed a portrait of the man in question. So the public did what it’s always done, and came to see it.
“Why is he tossing an apple?” asked a woman strolling through with two friends.
“Because it’s the Big Apple,” one friend replied.
The first woman said that she liked the inclusion of the apple. “I’m a dietitian, so that’s good.”
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This artwork in question: a 1989 studio photograph by the photographer Michael O’Brien. Trump, in a suit and tie, stands against a blue sky backdrop, an apple tossed from his hand hanging in midair.
The portrait is temporary. It will hang in its spot on the first floor until the end of February. It’s not an official presidential depiction – those aren’t commissioned until the end of a presidential term, and they join the official gallery upstairs only after the pol has left the White House.
“It’s very witty, and we think a good representation,” said David Ward, the museum’s chief historian who was on hand to answer questions about the artwork. “It’s simultaneously a respectful portrait, but it also references Rene Magritte.” (You have seen the Belgian surrealist’s most famous painting: man in suit and tie, blue-sky backdrop, apple covering his face). The portrait was already a part of the gallery’s collection before the election. “We know Trump liked it, because he used it as the cover of his second book.”