'House of Cards': Frank Underwood Portrait Unveiled at Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

The portrait is by Jonathan Yeo and comes weeks ahead of the political drama's season four premiere.
Courtesy of Netflix

Apparently, they'll let just about anybody into the Smithsonian. Even a murderer and master manipulator like (fictional) President Frank Underwood.

On Monday, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery unveiled a new painting of Kevin Spacey's House of Cards character ahead of the Netflix drama's season four premiere on March 4. As seen in the photo above, Spacey was there to see the portrait firsthand. The museum is famously home to the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House.

So far this year, Netflix has used the increased attention on politics, and particularly the 2016 presidential election, to its advantage. The streaming company debuted a fake campaign ad for Spacey's character, which also revealed the season four premiere date, during a December GOP debate. More recently, House of Cards was a presence in South Carolina at the same time many White House hopefuls were in the state for the primary.

The painting was done by British artist Jonathan Yeo, who previously painted Spacey in character as Shakespeare's Richard III for the National Portrait Gallery in London. Other subjects of Yeo's include British Prime Minister David Cameron and actress Nicole Kidman, among others.

“This collaboration with Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Yeo and the museum has resulted in a work that depicts the actor in a compelling role,” said National Portrait Gallery director Kim Sajet in a statement. “We were captivated by Jonathan’s bold idea to depict Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, which also reflects the changing way in which people consume media. Now ‘binge watching’ television has put control into the hands of consumers, who can watch their favorite shows at their leisure. Not only does it reflect the impact of popular contemporary culture on America’s story, but it also exemplifies the fine art tradition of actors portrayed in their roles.” 

Added Spacey: “Actually, I’m really delighted to be included in a work of art at such a remarkable institution. When the Smithsonian’s Portrait Gallery first approached Jonathan and me about a portrait of me — the actor — I wanted to see if Jonathan could unveil a fully rendered presidential portrait.  It is a real honor to be exhibited at the Smithsonian and a thrill to see Frank take his place among the presidents in this historic setting.”

Following the painting's unveiling, guests were treated to a special preview screening of the season four premiere, which picks up with Frank still in the thick of his run for reelection after inheriting the presidency when his predecessor stepped down.

The portrait will hang on public display at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. through October. House of Cards' new season premieres March 4.

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