It’s nearly 7 feet tall!
A new life-size portrait of Oprah Winfrey was unveiled on December 13th at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., DCist reports. The painting was created by Chicago-based artist Shawn Michael Warren, who said the project was years in the making. Warren first met with the media mogul in 2020, near the studios where she used to film The Oprah Winfrey Show. After going through a selection process that lasted five years, Winfrey chose Warren to commission her photo in 2021.
“When you and I had our first conversation two and a half years ago, I asked you something that caused to pause and ponder; How did you want to be depicted to the generations that don’t exist yet? I thank you for being sensitive and aware of the enormity of this endeavor and letting that question resonate with you,” Warren told Winfrey.
The OWN network founder gathered in the nation’s capital alongside family and friends for the special unveiling. The oil-on-canvas painting is almost 7 feet tall and depicts Winfrey smiling in her private prayer garden at her home in Montecito, California, wearing a purple taffeta gown. Winfrey got emotional as she reflected on her time growing up in rural Mississippi, remembering the first time she heard a “still small voice” on a back porch with her grandmother. It is that voice that Winfrey says has carried her all these years.
“I learned to lean into [that voice] and to understand that God can dream a bigger dream for you than you can ever dream for yourself. Because of all the dreams that I had, I didn’t even know there was a national gallery. I didn’t know there was a national gallery to dream and aspire to and for. And so I am living and breathing God’s dream for me this day,” Winfrey said.
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The unveiling comes just a month before Winfrey’s 70th birthday and the release of her new Color Purple musical, which will be in theaters on Christmas day. Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch was in attendance, speaking candidly about Winfrey’s impact on media and the culture at large.
“Oprah has never run out of ideas, nor has she ever tempered her commitment to use her creativity to make us all better. Oprah used television as a tool to help change the country. Her shows promoted literacy through her book clubs, enabled important cultural and personal conversations, and inspired generations of young women and people of color to change the world they live in,” said Bunch.
Winfrey’s portrait is now one of just 36 portraits commissioned over the past 30 years for the famed gallery. Beginning with George H.W. Bush in 1994, Winfrey now sits among other historic figures, including Barack and Michelle Obama, Venus and Serena Williams, and Ava DuVernay, who was present for the ceremony honoring the icon.
Speaking of what she hopes her impact will be for generations to come, Winfrey quoted a poem written for her by the late poet Maya Angelou.
“I want you to know that this is exactly what I intend to do: to continue to astonish a mean world with my acts of kindness.”
The Oprah Winfrey portrait is now on display at the National Portrait Gallery until October 2024.
Cover photo: New Life-Size Oprah Winfrey Portrait Is Unveiled at D.C.’s National Portrait Gallery/Photo by Dee Dwyer/Cover photo: New Life-Size Oprah Winfrey Portrait Is Unveiled at D.C.’s National Portrait Gallery/Oprah Winfrey with artist Shawn Michael Warren, December 13, 2023, National Portrait Gallery unveiling/Photo by Dee Dwyer/DCist/WAMU/WAMU