Painter of Elijah Cummings Portrait Finds It’s a Career-Changer

Jerrell Gibbs, a Baltimore-based painter, was commissioned by the House Oversight and Reform Committee and Baltimore Museum of Art to paint a portrait of the late Elijah Cummings. Cummings, who passed away in 2019, represented Maryland’s 7th District in the House of Representatives for over twenty years and was the first African American elected official to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. Cummings’ portrait was painted in Gibbs’ iconic bold, colorful strokes and will first be displayed in the Baltimore Museum of Art before finding its permanent home in the U.S. Capitol. We spoke in class about the importance of the meaning of public art due to its high visibility and influence, and I think this is a great example of public art with positive meaning, indicative of social change and progress. The historical significance of this painting cannot be understated: it will be one of less than 20 portraits of African-American leaders to be displayed at the Capitol, and one painted by a (previously) relatively unknown artist and person of color. You can read more in the New York Times here.

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