Frank Underwood Bares His Knuckles

underwoodIt’s not like he threw me in front of the Metro train as he did poor Zoe Barnes.

But I feel a little bit of what it’s like to be witheringly dismissed by Francis J. Underwood, the ruthless politician at the heart of Netflix’ hit “House of Cards.”

It was at the unveiling of a portrait of the fictional President Underwood, as portrayed by actor Kevin Spacey, this week at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery by the British artist Jonathan Yeo, whose work has ranged from actors to politicians. His official portrait of Tony Blair with a blood red veteran’s poppy got some note, as did his unsanctioned portrait of George W. Bush done entirely with cutouts from porn magazines.

And Yeo has finished one other portrait of Spacey. Today he’s Frank Underwood, but then he was Richard III, a character he played at the Old Vic on whom many think the Machiavellian leader of the streaming series is based.

In both, Yeo concentrated not only on Spacey’s mug, but also his hands.

And yet by my raising the issues of knuckles at a press conference, Spacey bared his.

What about the prominence of Spacey’s knuckles in both portraits, I asked the artist.

“The bruising has gone down,” Yeo joked, as if he had been rapped in the face by Spacey’s set of them.

The actor, meanwhile was in the middle of his own riff.

“It’s funny because when people see me on stage, they say often they remark, ‘Wow! Look at those knuckles!’ That’s been been happening to me since junior high. ‘Knuckles Spacey,’ they used to call me…”

Yes, yes. The reporter is an ass.

But I was trying to make a point — certainly the knuckles were more prominent in these portraits compared to Yeo’s other work, I tried to clarify.

“That’s true,” Yeo finally admitted. “I do think that when you’re painting someone, that it’s not just about the face, it’s about how they sit, and how their bones move and hang. And some people have interesting hands.

“And I think his are very expressive, and I was conscious of that scene at the end of the second season,” he said, turning to Spacey, “when you rap the desk twice, which is sort of a wonderful, powerful finite conclusion to the series. I think that lingered in my mind. So I think there’s some of that as well.”

It also made him think of the regal bearing of the role. “I wanted to kiss the ring,” Yeo said.

Still, the ridicule from the stage meant there weren’t many questions to follow.

“No one wants to talk about my knees?” Spacey/Underwood teased.


The full story about the portrait’s unveiling can be found here.


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