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Obama Doesn’t Want ‘Hope’ Painting

From the UK’s Daily Mail:

(Click to enlarge)

Why did Obama turn down offer from No 10 for the famous painting that set him on the road to the White House?

By Simon Walters and William Lowther
24th January 2010

Barack Obama turned down an offer from Gordon Brown to give him the famous painting that triggered his march to the White House, it was revealed tonight.

And he spurned a move to have the work, Hope, by the Victorian English artist and sculptor George Frederic Watts, specially displayed in Buckingham Palace so he could view it when he met the Queen.

The reason for the rebuffs is understood to be because the President’s team wanted to distance him from fiery preacher Jeremiah Wright, the man who introduced him to the painting that changed his life.

Wright, Mr Obama’s local pastor in Chicago for 20 years, nearly wrecked his presidential bid when he declared ‘God damn America’ from his pulpit and claimed the US  brought the 9/11 attacks on itself by its ‘terrorist’ foreign policies.

The story of how Mr Brown’s attempt to please Mr Obama backfired can be told today for the first time as the result of a Mail on Sunday investigation based on well-placed sources in London and Washington.

The painting, which portrays a draped and blindfolded figure sitting on a globe and plucking at the one remaining string on her lyre, formed the centrepiece of Wright’s now-historic 1990 sermon in which he told his congregation – including a young Obama – ‘to take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope…that’s the real word God will have us hear… from Watts’ painting’.

Mr Obama changed the phrase to ‘the audacity of hope’ and made it the title of both his keynote speech to the 2004 Democratic Convention and his bestselling second book.

The idea for the gift first arose in the run-up to the Prime Minister’s first visit to the new President in March 2009, just weeks after he formally succeeded George Bush.

Hope is the most famous work of Watts, who died in 1904, aged 87, and was described as ‘England’s Michelangelo’.

It is owned by a private collector but is often displayed to the public at the Watts Gallery in Guildford, Surrey. A secondary version of Hope, believed to be by one of Watts’s assistants, hangs in Tate Britain.

The Mail on Sunday understands that Mr Brown’s aides approached Mr Obama and offered to loan him the work to hang in the Oval Office, to replace a bust of Sir Winston Churchill presented to Mr Bush by Tony Blair.

No 10 was surprised when the White House declined the offer. The official explanation was that Mr Obama wanted to make the Oval Office ‘as American as possible’ – and Mr Obama replaced the bust of Churchill with one of Martin Luther King.

But sources suggest the real reason was that the President feared the painting would remind US voters once again of his connection to Wright.

The issue of the painting resurfaced when Mr Obama came to London for the G20 summit a month later.

The American embassy was asked if the President would like to view the painting during his visit, and the Queen’s private office was contacted to ask whether he could view it while attending a reception at Buckingham Palace. Again the idea was rebuffed by Washington

We were tempted to give this a miss, as they say in ‘Old Blighty.’

But, given that we have written the definitive exegesis on Mr. Wright’s ‘Audacity To Hope’ ‘sermon,’ and his preposterous misrepresentation of the painting, we decided to post it.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, January 24th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

19 Responses to “Obama Doesn’t Want ‘Hope’ Painting”

  1. tranquil.night says:

    I always thought the “audacity” of hope was always a little too honest of a title for Barack Obama, ‘audacity’ being more synonymous with ‘recklessness, arrogance, and presumptuousness’ than ‘boldness’ or daring.

    You don’t need an Art History class or even a complex understanding of symbolism to get the impression that the painting ‘Hope’ isn’t supposed to reflect an idea of deliverance. Hope is blind (blindfold), alienation (sitting on the rock/’world’ alone), and completely vain/impulsive (plucking the useless string in desparation for sound).

    So in Wright’s vision, the world suffers to such a crippling degree specifically so that once our punishment has been so severe we’ll repent in the guise of ‘hope’ and be delivered a career politician, Barack Obama? Question – why doesn’t Hope fix her lute to play more beautiful music for God? How’d she get blindfolded? Why is she so entranced by and (like a drug) desperate to hear the sound coming out of a rickety old string; could it be because she is ‘blind’ to everything but the music?

    Something tells me if Wright had actually known a little bit of history about George Frederic Watts he would’ve found another painter and painting to propogandize and use to manipulate and destroy lives. Then again, he isn’t the naive type; Wright, like Obama, might know exactly how wrong he is.

    From wikipedia

    “Delicate in health and with his mother dying while he was still young, he was home-schooled by his father in a conservative interpretation of Christianity as well as via the classics such as the Iliad – the former put him off conventional religion for life, whilst the latter was a continual influence on his art.”

    “During his last years Watts also turned to sculpture. His most famous work, the 1902 large bronze statue Physical Energy, depicts a naked man on horseback shielding his eyes from the sun as he looks ahead of him. It was originally intended to be dedicated to Muhammad, Attila, Tamerlane and Genghis Khan, thought by Watts to epitomise the raw energetic will to power. A cast was placed at Rhodes Memorial in Cape Town, South Africa honouring the grandiose imperial vision of Cecil Rhodes. Watts’ essay “Our Race as Pioneers” indicates his support for imperialism, which he believed to be a progressive force.

  2. proreason says:

    This doesn’t have anything at all to do with the painting.

    It’s one more insult to the English, because they exemplify the epitome of Western thought.

    In other words, they represent everything Obamy hates.

    • Petronius says:

      Just so. That, and because of his simmering resentment over the British colonial experience in Kenya.

      The savage Mau Mau terror in the early 1950s was directed chiefly against other black Africans. Yet Liberals never became upset about that; rather, they reserved their hatred for the Brits who put a stop to the slaughter. Or they preferred instead to scold the South for segregated restrooms and drinking fountains.

      According to family legend, Nerobama’s grandfather allegedly suffered imprisonment and whippings at the hands of the British colonial authorities during the Mau Mau terror: an unpardonable act.

    • tranquil.night says:

      Absolutely. Any opportunity to slam the British for colonialism is like catnip to these guys. It’s just funny that the painting in question here is attributed to a publicly outspoken colonial-imperialist of the time. The painting was the inspiration for Barack’s whole ‘Hope’ image, an image spurned by a completely azz backwards, anti-imperialistic interpretation of an imperialist’s painting about the FUTILITY of hope. The delicious irony is almost too blaring not to be intentional, in my opinion. It demonstrates the lack of intellectual depth and complete spell Barack was under whenever Wright spoke. He would go on to channel that very verbal diarrhea to manipulate himself to the presidency.

    • jobeth says:


      “That, and because of his simmering resentment over the British colonial experience in Kenya.”

      Of course! That makes perfect sense. I never thought of that! I think that just may well be the core truth in his treatment of Britain.

      That would make a whole lot of his behavioral puzzle pieces fit perfectly.

  3. jobeth says:

    “The official explanation was that Mr Obama wanted to make the Oval Office ‘as American as possible’ – and Mr Obama replaced the bust of Churchill with one of Martin Luther King. ”

    Or as black as possible….
    King was on to right behavior for equality but he is no more deserving a place in the Oval office than Churchill. Certainly there is room for both. Certainly some non descript ornamental dinner plate could be removed to accommodate King’s bust without insulting our British ally.

    And to insult our strongest ally in the world by rejecting, not one, but two important gift offers, is inexcusable.

    As if Winston Churchill’s bust would ‘de-Americanize’ the Oval Office. Churchill as a WWII ally is very much a part of American history. And an honorable one.

    And if you think about it…Obalmy wanting to keep the Oval office as American as possible is really rich…coming from a man who is working as hard as possible to Europenize America. And as a socialized America at that.

    As to the painting…The only thing he really liked about it was he could adjust the title for his own use.

    He is an embarrassment to the American people. I want to apologize to the world…especially to our best allies…Britain and Israel…for our so called president.

    There…now we are even. The American people are now trying to apologize for him

    What a ditz.

    • proreason says:

      “And to insult our strongest ally in the world by rejecting, not one, but two important gift offers, is inexcusable”

      just in case the dim bulbs didn’t get the message the first time

    • JohnMG says:

      ….”As if Winston Churchill’s bust would ‘de-Americanize’ the Oval Office…..”

      Just for the record, Churchill’s mother was a Yank. Read that, an American US citizen.

      Ironic, no?

    • jobeth says:

      John, you are right…so wouldn’t that mean he was entitled to an American citizenship?

      One more point in Churchill’s favor.

      Even if that weren’t true…Churchill, in my book, could be classified more American in action than Obalmy ever could be.

    • JohnMG says:

      Given the contortions evidenced concerning Obama’s eligibility to occupy the White House, maybe Churchill could have been POTUS. Certainly we’d have been better off.

      Besides, given enough time, I’m almost certain some geneaologist will discover that Obama and Churchill share a distant relative. I mean, Obama is desperate to grasp even the smallest morsel of legitimacy when leadership is in question.

      Legitmacy……? Hmmmmm, chance choice of word, that.

    • jobeth says:

      “I’m almost certain some geneaologist will discover that Obama and Churchill share a distant relative. ”

      John, I believe that would be Grandpa Noah and his wife…and again further back Grandpa Adam and Grandma Eve. lol

      Disgusting thought isn’t it to think we even share a shred of DNA with him.

    • Liberals Demise says:

      Great conversation JMG and jobeth.

      Leaves me with calling the two of ya “Cheeky Monkeys.”

      Petronius……you be cheeky, too!

    • jobeth says:

      Why…thank ya, sir! ….I think…lol

    • ptat says:

      Hey, Liberals Demise–are you actually making a reference to that obscure but hilarious Steven Coogan character, Alan something or other, the talk show host? Great stuff!

  4. canary says:

    It does not have blood & bruising and the valley below, aside she is not looking upwards either, as Rev. Wright described it at Obama’s first attendance at Trinity after Rev Wright warned his aiding Obama might harm Obama’s reputation.

    Dreams from My Father Barack Obama excerpts from pgs 291-295

    I woke up at six A.M. that Sunday. It was still dark outside. I shaved, brushed the lint from my only suit,..A white-gloved usher led me…then Reverend Wright appeared beneath the large cross that hung from the rafters. The reverend remained silent while devotions were read, scanning the faces in front of him, watching the collection basket pass from hand to hand. When the collection was over, he stepped up to the pulpit…
    The title of Reverend Wright’s sermon that morning was “The Audacity of Hope.” …The story reminded him, he said, of a sermon a fellow pastor had preached at a conference some years before, in which the pastor described going to a museum and being confronted by a painting titled
    “The painting depicts a harpist,” Reverend Wright explained, “a woman who at first glance appears to be sitting atop a great mountain. Until you take a closer look and see that the woman is bruised and bloodied, dressed in tattered rags, the harp reduced to a single frayed string. Your eye is then drawn down to the scene below, down to the valley below, where everywhere are the ravages of famine, the drumbeat of war, a world groaning under strife and deprivation
    “It is this world, a world where cruise ships throw away more food in a day than most residents of Port-au-Prince see in a year,

    where white folks’ greed runs a world in need, apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere… That’s the world! On which hope sits!”
    And so it went, a meditation on a fallen world….Reverend Wright spoke of Sharpsville and Hiroshima, the callousness of policy makers in the White House and in the State House. As the sermon unfolded, though, the stories of strife became more prosaic, the pain more immediate. The reverend spoke of the hardship that the congregation would face tomorrow, the pain of those far from the mountain top, worrying about paying the light bill.
    “Isn’t that….the world that each of us stands on?”
    “Like Hannah, we have known bitter times! Daily, we face rejection and despair!”
    “Say it!”
    “And yet consider once again the painting before us. Hope! Like Hannah, that harpist is looking upwards, a few faint notes floating upwards towards the heavens. She dares to hope…She has the audacity…to make music…and praise God.. on the one string…she has left.”

    “The audacity of hope! I still remmber my grandmother, singing in the house, ‘There’s a bright side somewhere…don’t rest til you find it..'”
    “That’s right!”
    “The audacity of hope!”…
    “Tell it now!”
    “I didn’t understand that they were talking about the vertical dimension!
    About their relationship to God! I didn’t understand that they were thanking Him in advance for all that they dared to hope for in me!”
    (Though Obama was by himself and spoke to no one, he seems to make it all about him)
    The Audacity of Hope Barack Obama Epilogue pg 356

    …It brought to mind a phrase that my pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., had once used in a sermon.
    The audacity of hope. ————

    What I find interesting is everyone Obama thanks in aiding him in the acknowledgments pages. Guess Ayers wasn’t around for this one.

    wife Michelle, Crown’s Rachel Klayman (got promotion), Jenny Frost, Steve Ross. Amy Boorstein – production process, Tina Constable and Christine Aronson – vigorous advocates],Jill Flaxman- sales force
    Jacob Bronstein – audio version for the second time (Obama’s voice)
    Crown team: Lucinda Barley,k Whitney Cookman, Lauren Dong, Laura Duffy, Skip Dye, Leta Evanthes, Kristin Kiser, Donna Passannante, Philip Patrick, Stan Redfern , Barbara Sturman, don Weisberg, and many others.

    Several good friends, including
    David Axelrod,
    Cassandra Butts, Forrest claypool, Julius Genachowski, Scott Gration, Robert Fisher, Michael Froman, Donald Gips, John Jupper, Anthony Lake, Susan Rice, Gene Sperling,
    Cass Sunstein,
    Jim Wallis took the time to read the manuscript and provided invaluable suggestions,Samantha Power for her generosity combed each chapter, cheered Obama up,
    A number of Senate staff, including Pete Rouse, Karen Kornbluh, Mike Strauitmanis, Jon Favreau, Mark Lippert, Joshus Dubois, and especially

    Robert Gibbs and Chris Lu,
    read & provided editorial suggestions, policy recommendations, reminders, and corrections, literally going beyond the call of duty.
    Former staffer Madhuri Kommareddi, fact-checked the entire manuscript..
    Bob Barnett of Williams and Connolloy

    • tranquil.night says:

      ‘Hope’ – Opiate for the Eternal Victim. Makes very clear sense now why Wright/Obama clung to this painting – and why he’s shied away from it publicly ever since.

    • jobeth says:


      “‘Hope’ – Opiate for the Eternal Victim”

      Now I like that…It has that certain ‘ring’ to it.

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