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Art of the deal

120 faces: Israeli artist paints Trump from every angle

Iddo Markus, a strong critic of former US president, says he now sees him as a ‘tragic figure’

Israeli painter Iddo Markus speaks during an interview at his studio, surrounded by his paintings of former US president Donald Trump, in the northern port city of Haifa, on January 22, 2021 (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)
Israeli painter Iddo Markus speaks during an interview at his studio, surrounded by his paintings of former US president Donald Trump, in the northern port city of Haifa, on January 22, 2021 (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

AFP — The face is obscure and grim, but the blonde comb-over and tie leave no doubt that the image carpeting the studio of Israeli painter Iddo Markus is that of Donald Trump.

“Let’s start by saying that I don’t like him,” the voluble artist stressed.

Markus, with his short beard and piercing black eyes, said he was nonetheless fascinated by the now “tragic figure.”

The walls and floor of his studio in the northern port city of Haifa are packed with portraits of the former American president.

When the billionaire presented his candidacy for the 2016 presidential election, the Israeli artist said he “couldn’t believe it.”

Then, when Trump was eventually elected, he said he was terrified, even “repulsed” by the Republican’s “way of treating people and minorities.”

Israeli painter Iddo Markus displays some of his paintings of former US president Donald Trump, at his studio in the northern port city of Haifa, on January 22, 2021 (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

But he could not tear his eyes from the man with the “orange face and yellow hair,” whose image and laconic prose inundated television networks and social media for more than four years.

His first painting of Trump, done hastily, was followed by around 120 more oil-color works on canvas and wood.

They depict a man with a distorted face, but whose silhouette is immediately recognizable.

“The first paintings were much more colorful and faster,” said Markus, who went to art school in both his native US and current home Israel.

Israeli painter Iddo Markus arranges his paintings of former US president Donald Trump, at his studio in the northern port city of Haifa, on January 22, 2021.(Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

But he said the figure took on a more “pathetic” air after Trump’s supporters ransacked the US Capitol earlier this month, and after his electoral defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.

“Now I feel he’s like a tragic figure,” Markus said. “He became a complex person, instead of an image, instead of an icon.”

“The way he holds himself was different after he lost,” he added, saying this conveyed “that he is a human being and he understands something has changed.”

“Before that, I really felt he thought he was god.”

Israeli painter Iddo Markus arranges his paintings of former US president Donald Trump, at his studio in the northern port city of Haifa, on January 22, 2021 (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

Markus has dubbed the portrait series “The Apprentice,” after the reality TV show that contributed to Trump’s popularity.

He said one of the works had been acquired by an American who wanted a reminder of “how low” US politics could go.

In his cluttered studio, the walls covered with sketches, cut-out photos and smears of paint, Markus readily admitted his fixation wasn’t unique to Trump.

“I’m obsessed with everything I do,” he said.

Israeli painter Iddo Markus displays some of his paintings of former US president Donald Trump, at his studio in the northern port city of Haifa, on January 22, 2021 (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

Repetition is a part of his practice — for one series, he created around 1,000 works based on a childhood picture of his wife, painting them on small wooden squares or even huge canvases over a period of five years.

“I’m not a person who needs a drama to paint,” Markus said. “I don’t need war, love… I need a journey.”

And painting Trump “was an interesting journey.”

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