A Kehinde Wiley portrait of British artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye has been jointly acquired by the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art, both in New Haven, Connecticut. This is the first time the museums have jointly purchased an artwork.
Portrait of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Jacob Morland of Capplethwaite (2017) depicts Yiadom-Boakye on a life-size scale. In it, she is outfitted in traditional English hunting garb, rifle in hand. At her feet are five dead hares, and behind her extends a lush green landscape. The work is a reinterpretation of British artist George Romney’s 1763 portrait of the aristocrat Jacob Morland that is now in the collection of London’s Tate Britain.
“Through my time at Yale I was drawn into the language and history of power—its negotiation, its use, and its potential promise for Black figurative painting, as is exemplified in the body of work titled Trickster,” Wiley said in a statement. “Lynette’s portrait takes its cues directly from the tradition of British hunting portraits and evokes a new sensibility, temperature, and cultural logic with regards to the Black female body in hallowed space.”
The portrait—the first work by Wiley that Yale’s museums have acquired—is an example of the artist’s practice of placing Black figures within art historical spaces. Wiley’s aim is to subvert the norms of Western art while also creating a new portraiture tradition.
The painting is part of Wiley’s “Trickster” series, which establishes a pantheon of some of the most prominent contemporary Black artists. Also depicted in that series are Kerry James Marshall, Wangechi Mutu, Derrick Adams, and Carrie Mae Weems. Each artist is shown in the grand style of court portraiture, with dramatic lighting and hauteur.
“In addition to its merits as an unusual and effective example of his work, Wiley’s portrait of Yiadom-Boakye stands as a meaningful tribute from one painter to another,” said Keely Orgeman, associate curator of modern and contemporary art at the Yale University Art Gallery. “We hope it will hold particular significance for Yale’s community of artists.”
The portrait will be on view through 2021 at the Yale Center for British Art, after which it will travel to the Yale University Art Gallery.