by Andrew BurtonThe painter’s work, “The Portrait of Orson Welles,” has become a symbol of America’s changing political landscape.
His portrait of Orinoco, the Mexican hero of the movie The Bandit, is one of the first works of American art to depict the nation’s political landscape in the light of day.
Welles died in 1966, at the age of 93.
The painting, now in private collection at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., is one in a series of works that Welles commissioned to portray his own political world in the 1920s.
His work on the wall of the American Revolution Museum in New York, the American Renaissance Museum in Virginia, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D. C. are among the works on display.
Welles was born in New Orleans on August 20, 1884, to an itinerant family of musicians and songwriters.
He studied painting and music at New Orleans State University, graduating in 1924 with a degree in history.
As a teenager, he began to travel to Europe, becoming the first African American painter to do so, according to the National Portraits Gallery.
He moved to New York in 1929, where he painted the first of his series of portraits of the famous abolitionist Martin Luther King Jr., and later, the United States flag.
In the early 1940s, Welles painted the final of the four portraits of King, who died in February of that year.
Wellens, who was born with an eye condition called vitiligo, began painting portraits of other famous figures, including Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson, according the National Archives and Records Administration.
Wellles also painted the iconic “Hallelujah” from the Broadway musical The Jazz Singer in 1948.
“It’s like walking the plank,” Welles once told the National Post.
By 1950, Wellens was painting the first three portraits of Martin Luther Kings, Jr., who would become the nation and the world’s first African-American president, according Wikipedia.
After King died in June of that same year, Wellles moved to Washington D., D.N., where he continued painting portraits, including the portraits of President John F., Jr., the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Supreme Court, according National Portraiture.
The portrait of King is a classic portrait of his political philosophy, Wellnes said in a 1991 interview with the National Public Radio.
King had been convicted of murdering an unarmed black man during a carjacking in Mississippi, and Welles, a former Confederate, painted King in a manner that demonstrated how he was a “good and noble man” in a “beautiful and dignified manner.”
Wells later returned to Washington to paint a portrait of President Lyndon Johnson that was to be used as a rallying cry for Johnson to declare a war on racism, according Wiki.
Now known as “King of the Portrait,” Wellnes painted his portrait of Johnson in front of the United Nations General Assembly in New Bern, North Carolina, in 1962.
For a time, Wellres painted King on the White House lawn in front and back of the U, with the words “King on the Lawn,” a reference to the painting’s slogan.
Then, in 1963, Wellys painting of Johnson became the first public portrait of an African American president, the National Gallery of Art said.
At that time, the U., the world, and Washington, DC were in turmoil.
The war was winding down, and with the election of President Richard Nixon as president, Wellons portrait of Nixon became the most famous portrait of him in the history of the nation.
Nixon was impeached for perjury in 1974, and in 1973, Wellmans portrait of Kennedy, who had just been killed in Dallas, was stolen.
While Welles portrait of JFK was on the newsstand, Well’s was not, the gallery said in its statement.
During the 1960s, welles was a regular at protests and demonstrations across the country.
In 1962, Well, who also had vitiligious skin disease, was attacked by protesters at a New York City protest and suffered serious injuries, according Wikiquote.
According to Wikipedia, Well was a member of the New York State Nurses Association, and he participated in the union’s March on Washington in 1967.
Throughout his life, Well had worked as a photographer, painter, and actor.
But in the late 1970s, his political activism became the focus of attention.
That year, he became involved in a dispute over a painting of King that had been painted by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, according Encyclopedia Britannica.
Wells refused to allow Jackson to use his painting, and Jackson’s team took the painting from him and returned it to Well, according wikipedia