WASHINGTON D.C. — In early October, the White House released a list of 45 works of art chosen to adorn the walls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but just when it seemed the Obamas' taste in fine art couldn't be any more scrutinized, the dissension continues. A certain painting on the list - originally slated to hang in the First Lady's Office in the East Wing - has since been returned to the Hirshhorn Museum. As to why it was returned, therein lies the controversy.
Alma Thomas' 1963 painting entitled Watusi (Hard Edge) looks remarkably similar to Henri Matisse's The Snail, painted ten years prior. Rotate The Snail [shown above right] 90 degrees counterlockwise, use a cooler color palette and - ta da! Watusi [shown above left] emerges.
Imitation is certainly nothing new in the art world, in fact, for centuries artists have perfected their craft by more or less copying the masters who came before. Similarly, musicians remix songs and filmmakers remake movies. In this case, the two works are so blatantly similar that it would be hard to argue Thomas was doing anything but paying homage to Matisse. Of course, that didn't stop certain conservative bloggers from flailing accusations, saying the Obamas were either ignorant as to the vagrant plagiarism, or excusing it because Expressionist painter Thomas was an African-American. But a simpler, more reasonable explanation came from Mrs. Obama's deputy press secretary, Semonti Stephens: “This piece just didn’t fit right in the room. There’s no other reason. It really has nothing to do with the work itself.”
Alma Thomas was the first African American woman to have a solo exhibit at the Whitney Museum. Her painting Sky Light (1973) continues to hang in the Obama family's private quarters.
Read More - The Obamas Return a Painting | Time.com[Photo: Left - Alma Thomas. Watusi (Hard Edge), 1963. | Right - Henri Matisse. The Snail, 1953.]