Skip to main content

As a public health precaution, all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo will temporarily close to the public starting Saturday, March 14 until further notice. Please continue to check back frequently at npg.si.edu or si.edu for updates. In the meantime, please explore our website, resource materials and online exhibitions. 

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Usage Conditions Apply
Artist
Yuqi Wang, born 7 Jun 1958
Sitter
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., born 16 Sept 1950
Date
2011
Type
Painting
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
Stretcher: 127 x 101.6cm (50 x 40")
Frame: 139.1 × 114 × 7cm (54 3/4 × 44 7/8 × 2 3/4")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Richard D. Cohen and the Hutchins Family Foundation
Object number
C/NPG.2012.17
Exhibition Label
Born Keyser, West Virginia
The author of numerous books, including Life Upon These Shores (2011), Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates is one of today’s most prominent public intellectuals. He has cast a wide net of influence across generations with a variety of publications about African American history and culture, combined with frequent public appearances. Yuqi Wang’s portrait refers to 1975, when Gates “decided to become an academic.” During that year, Gates was on a fellowship at Cambridge University, where he encountered professors Wole Soyinka and Anthony Appiah, whose books are included here on the table along with W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk (1903). The sculpture next to them represents the Yoruba god Esu-Elegbara. Gates’s analysis of the relevance of this god to black literary theory appears in his influential Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African American Literary Criticism (1988). Wang balances the composition with purple freesia, a personal reference to Cambridge, England, and Gates’s pivotal year there.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
Usage
Not determined