From Alistair Sooke at the Telegraph: Barack Obama’s favorite painting is a famous canvas by the visionary Victorian artist George Frederic Watts. “In 1990, Obama was captivated by a sermon delivered by the Rev Jeremiah Wright, his controversial former pastor. The focus of the sermon was ‘Hope,’ Watts’s melancholy painting of a hunched and blindfolded girl who sits atop a globe and tentatively plucks at a single string on her crude wooden lyre. At first glance, it is hardly the most comforting of images, with its pea-soup greens and murky greys; indeed, GK Chesterton quipped that Watts might more accurately have called his painting ‘Despair.’ Watts actually painted two versions of “Hope:” one hangs in Tate Britain; the other, from a private collection, went on show at London’s Guildhall Art Gallery this week, as part of a substantial exhibition of Watts’s work….But the painting’s message of faith in the face of adversity fascinated Wright. ‘The harpist is sitting there in rags,’ he preached. ‘Her clothes are tattered as though she had been a victim of Hiroshima… [yet] the woman had the audacity to hope.’ The phrase stuck irrevocably in Obama’s mind. He adapted it as the title of his rousing address to the Democratic Convention in 2004. In 2006, he used it again, as the title of his second book.” Read more.
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