No, This Bizarre Anti-Obama Painting Isn't Going to Hang in Trump's White House

The Forgotten Man
"The Forgotten Man" is the most popular painting by Jon McNaughton, who hopes he might get to see it hanging in Donald Trump's White House. Twitter.com/McNaughtonArt

Jon McNaughton, a painter based in Utah, spends a lot of time painting President Barack Obama. It's not out of affection.

McNaughton hates Obama. He has painted the 44th president burning the Constitution, golfing as a nuclear bomb explodes behind him and playing a tiny violin while Capitol Hill goes up in flames. (Fire, in the smoldering Michael Bay-movie sense, is a very prominent motif in his work.)

But his most famous painting is a little more subtle, insofar as it doesn't feature any explosions or visions of Jesus surrounded by Founding Fathers and astronauts. It's titled The Forgotten Man. A callous Obama is depicted stepping on the Constitution as an average Joe sits, forlorn and neglected, on a nearby bench. Behind him is a crowd consisting of every former president. Some of the Republican commanders in chief, including Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, are seen gesturing toward the forgotten man with urgent concern. Others, like Bill Clinton, are applauding and turning away from the man.

The painting, completed in 2010, was inspired by the Affordable Care Act. "It resonates with a lot of Americans," McNaughton told BuzzFeed in 2012. At the time, McNaughton's "patriotic paintings" (as he calls them) had asking prices in the six figures. Reproductions of The Forgotten Man were selling for up to $400.

Fast-forward four years. During the election campaign, McNaughton shared some sketches of Donald Trump pictured with some of his most profound sayings, like "I don't like losers." Shortly after Trump's victory last week, McNaughton tweeted some exciting news: Sean Hannity had purchased his Forgotten Man painting! Even better, McNaughton claimed that the Fox News host would be gifting the painting to Trump to hang in the White House. (The tweet got a lot of attention among Trump fans such as "Deplorable Me," a Twitter egg who tweeted he was ordering a print.)

Could this really happen? It would be an unprecedented move for a president to hang in the White House a painting explicitly bashing his predecessor. But there's a lot that's unprecedented about President-elect Trump's relationship with our current president. Keep in mind that Trump began his political "career" by going on a publicity tour claiming that Obama was not born in the United States. As Politico recently noted, "Never has there been such raw and clear mutual personal hatred and dismissal between two presidents."

Curiously, Trump seemed to echo the title of McNaughton's painting in his victory speech when he declared that the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer."

Reached by email, McNaughton confirmed that Hannity really did purchase the painting. He won't reveal the price (Hannity has bought some of his work in past years). But it's probably not headed to the White House. "Hannity said he may keep it for himself," McNaughton says. "Many Americans relate to its message, although it is hated by the left." He described the painting as an attack on "political correctness and cronyism in Washington."

On Wednesday, Hannity tweeted that he wasn't giving the painting to Trump. (The TV personality hasn't responded to a request for comment.)

McNaughton says he's OK with that decision. "I hope it hangs somewhere millions of Americans can see it to remind them of the nightmare our country has endured for the last eight years!" the painter wrote to Newsweek. "I don't know where Hannity will choose to hang it, but I'm sure it will be a reminder to a lot of us of how we've been let down by many of our political parties."

Art critic Jerry Saltz has described McNaughton's work as pandering and "typical propaganda art, drop-dead obvious in message," but it's an interesting glimpse of what pro-Trump art might resemble in a fascist state. The work doesn't just reflect the long arc of propaganda art. It also reflects Trump himself—his contempt for subtlety and love of bombastic, cheesy, over-the-top objects, like a literal golden elevator.

Notably, the forgotten man in McNaughton's painting appears to be a middle-aged white man—Trump's core voter demographic. I asked McNaughton if he'll soon start painting the racial and religious minorities who are likely to face increased discrimination during Trump's administration. He responded (falsely), "Trump hasn't made any comments to indicate he would oppress any Americans."

Meanwhile, The Forgotten Man is still stirring up a whole range of reactions. Twitter user @bransonreese, for instance, claimed (jokingly) that the painting was his own work and suggested an apt new title for it: The Black President Is Bad and the Slave-Owning Presidents Are Good.