This painting of Kehinde Wiley is a re-creation of a French masterpiece of two hundred years before but with significant difference.
This act of appropriation raise concern about the tradition of portraiture and how it affects power and privilege. Wiley known for his painting of people of color is reflection of where he comes and divide that exist in our society today. The artwork gracefully used some elements and principle of art in his work. The frame is in a geometric form, there is also a representation of line as he points to the direction where his heading. We can also see texture in full displace in the body of the horse around its neck area.
There is great display of motion in the movement of the horse and created volume as the horse rose from the ground with her arm. Shape is also present looking at the horse and its rider.Napoleon Leading the Army is a clear spin-off of Jacques-Louis David’s painting of 1800 where he was victorious over Australians. Wiley replaces the original white subject—the French general with an anonymous black man whom Wiley approached on the street. This to Wiley, was more of culture and race which is a true reflection of modern day America society.The young man wearing camouflage fatigues, Timberlake work boots, and a bandana is similar to the militaristic nature of the original painting and the violence of modern day urban America, particularly as experienced by young black men. Wiley also dressed his subject in an outfit that is mostly and reflective of a culture notorious for flashy life style -hip hop culture.
It can be seen that Wiley continuous leaning towards the black race that to him neglected of representation and glorification.The expensive French fabric inserted on the background is also a reflection of the rich lifestyle of black people especially, hip hop artists. Wiley also infuse tiny painting of sperms, this might be his way of poking fun of highly charged masculinity and propagation of gender identity that are involved in western tradition in art industry.Wiley did retain the rocky surface of the original painting and carved names of illustrious leaders who had lead troops over the Alp: Napoleon, Hannibal, and Karobus magus but he also included the name Williams which is again a reflection of the artist association to people of color.
The artist made great use of both primary and secondary colors to give his work a great look. Using some traditional appearance of the genre, such as the heroic scale, and enlightenment in an empowered celebration for an African American Community, which has hither to been given a limited space in archives and history.