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Comparative Analysis of Kehinde Wiley’s "The Two Sisters" and Jan Van Eyck’s "The Double Portrait"

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While Kehinde Wiley’s “The Two Sisters” and Jan Van Eyck’s “The Double Portrait” are both greatly detailed portraits, each one contains its own style, form, content, and context that give the paintings a unique presence in its own way. Kehinde Wiley’s “The Two Sisters” is a pop art oil painting done on a linen surface that was made in 2012 based off of an 1843 painting by Theodore Chasseriau also called “The Two Sisters”. Jan Van Eyck’s “The Double Portrait” was made in 1434 during the Northern and Italian Renaissance. This piece is also an oil painting but instead was done on an oak panel. Despite the major time period difference between the two, they are still both famous paintings and artists and still to this day continue to shock and impress people with their impressive talent.

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The popular painting “The Double Portrait” ironically is a double portrait with the subject being an Italian merchant named Arnolfini and his wife. The media that was used for this piece was oil paint that yields lustrous colors. The thin translucent glaze he applied created a more realistic scene that enhanced the color and tone throughout the painting. He took advantage of the long drying paint to blend the colors together subtly with the wet and wet technique. It showcases what the wealthy fifteenth-century society was like. The most widely accepted interpretation of the painting is sometimes thought to be a wedding painting but actually captures a husband and wife with a wealthy status holding hands in the setting of their home. You can clearly see that both he and his wife are dressed in luxurious clothes and have a nicely designed interior of the bedroom. There a several symbolic objects in the painting with different viewpoints on what the dog, the unworn shoes, the oranges and the candle mean, but the most common symbolic meanings are the oranges representing marriage and innocence, the dog shows their wealth because of the rare breed, the one lit candle stands for the seeing eye of god, lastly the unworn shoes shows a sign of respect. The light seeping through the window shows you how he mastered the technique of creating light, shadow, and texture. For example, if you look closely at the dog and their clothing, you can see the intense texture and fine detail like each stroke of hair in the dog.

Kehinde Wiley is an American artist that is best known for creating large-scale paintings in older style settings that features African Americans as the focus of the painting. Ever since he was a young boy he was always interested in art and observing the way it is portrayed. In order to get the final product Wiley takes figures out of famous classical European paintings and puts the figure on a decorative background and then includes a portrait of his African American model in the piece. His portraits contain ordinary people that he scouts for in the streets of New York hoping to find models with self-possession and swagger. Wiley’s whole concept of capturing African Americans is to give a sense of power and dethrone white subjects and interchange the expected white role being played with modern black men. In 2014 Wiley wanted to change his direction and so he stepped out of his comfort zone and made a documentary about his whole experience of painting women for the first time. He decided to name the film An Economy of Grace because it shows how grace like power can be manufactured, bought, or painted. The film captured him making ten paintings and about five of them were big ones while the other ones were smaller. It took many long hours in order to complete the specific detailed background with the help of many assistants to finish all the small little missing pieces throughout the portrait. The way he focused on and made the skin color of his models was so precise and close to the real skin tone of the models. He was able to make such a realistic human figure that resembles the model perfectly. The choice of bright colors in the background made the painting stand out even more. All of the paintings for An Economy of Grace featured only women purposely to investigate the power and role in image making. By using custom costumes made by Givenchy it made everything more elegant in the painting by having a unique wardrobe that truly captured the style that was popular with nobles in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Even though the works of the two artists visually seem the complete opposite they do in fact have several things in common with each other that make them more alike than you think. For example, both are oil paintings capture human figures making them portraits. Kehinde Wiley actually used a portrait from Jan Van Eyck called “Portrait of a Man in a Red Turban” made in 1433 to replicate. Both artist used expensive, high end clothing for different purposes but was still a key aspect in both paintings, for example in Wiley’s work he was trying to replicate the women’s style in the 19th century and use beautiful and elegant materials to make it as similar as possible while as Jan Van Eyck’s choice of high-end wardrobe showed the status of your wealth. The two portraits portray the skill level of the artist and the precise techniques they use to achieve an amazing finished product.

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Overall any painting has its own special touch to it from the artist, and no two paintings are exactly the same no matter how similar they are. Everyone creates and adapts to his or her own personalized techniques and strategies. The difference in time periods also affects the characteristics in the painting because art is constantly evolving and changing finding more efficient ways of going about. How the artists use paint and a brush to create a piece of art that stands for so much more than just colors and designs, the statement and messages along with it can be powerful and deep in meaning. Many days and hours of labor that were spent to achieve the finished look was worth it in the end when you were able to observe the amazing masterpieces from both Kehinde Wiley and Jan Van Eyck.

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Comparative analysis of Kehinde Wiley’s “The Two Sisters” and Jan Van Eyck’s “The Double Portrait”. (2019, March 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 3, 2023, from
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Comparative analysis of Kehinde Wiley’s “The Two Sisters” and Jan Van Eyck’s “The Double Portrait”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 Jun. 2023].
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