Jonathan Yeo


Smithsonian portrait unveiling: Netflix style

Video_1 copy.jpg

Kevin Spacey as President F. Underwood at the Smithsonian National portrait gallery, washington dc

22nd February 2016 - 10th October 2016


On 22nd February 2016 a major new portrait of Kevin Spacey, in the role of President Frank Underwood from the Netflix series 'House of Cards', was unveiled at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, one of the world's most prestigious institutions. The work continues a collaboration between Spacey and Yeo, which began with the depiction of him playing Richard III at the Old Vic, and was a joint project between Jonathan Yeo and the museum, which houses the only complete collection of Presidential portraits outside of the White House. It has received wide public and critical acclaim for its blurring of reality and fiction. 

“This collaboration with Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Yeo and the museum has resulted in a work that depicts the actor in a compelling role.  We were captivated by Jonathan’s bold idea to depict Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, which also reflects the changing way in which people consume media. Now ‘binge-watching’ television drama has put control into the hands of the consumers who can watch their favourite shows at their leisure.  Not only does it reflect the impact of popular contemporary culture on America’s story but it also exemplifies the fine art tradition of actors portrayed in their roles.”          

Kim Sajet, Director of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, 2016. 


“I am incredibly honored to be selected as a subject for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, a fine institution..." said Kevin Spacey, "Jonathan and I have developed a great rapport through our collaboration over the past few years and from the beginning we both saw the opportunity to create something interesting, insightful and resonant which reflected the Museum’s heritage."

Jonathan Yeo observed: “As a portrait painter, depicting a brilliant actor doing their job presents a particular challenge as you are trying to capture both their portrayal and some of their actual character on the canvas.  Kevin Spacey and I have been collaborating for several years around the idea of life and art crossing over. What an actor does when they inhabit a role in many ways parallels what happens when you make a piece of artwork based on a living subject... It’s a huge honour for me to see this portrait of Kevin playing Frank Underwood unveiled at one of the most important institutions in the world."


The Guardian

The Daily Beast

BBC Radio 4, Front Row

The Washington Post

The Creators Project - Vice 


A short film of the unveiling was made by Netflix, which was released to promote the fourth season of House of Cards, which premiered at the Museum that same evening: