Trump’s legacy lives on in Haifa artist’s unique portraits

Iddo Markus paints 150 portraits of the 45th US president

Iddo Markus paints hundreds of paintings of former US President Donald Trump (photo credit: IDDO MARKUS)
Iddo Markus paints hundreds of paintings of former US President Donald Trump
(photo credit: IDDO MARKUS)
American voters might have said “No thanks” to The Donald on November 3, while the January 6 abortive takeover of the US Capitol fizzled into deadly farce, but in Haifa the former US president lives on in his larger-than-life glory, thanks to artist Iddo Markus.
Since Trump’s surprise electoral victory in 2016, the Boston-born, Herzliya-raised painter has churned out 150 canvases of Trump – enough to reflect the ego of the tragi-comic figure who is a legend in his own mind. They stare at you from every corner of Markus’s cluttered studio on Nevi’im Street in Haifa’s trendy Hadar district. The American-Israeli artist calls his series of canvases “The Apprentice,” after the NBC reality TV show that debuted in 2004 and for the next decade and a half contributed to Trump’s popularity.
“I want people to remember How Low Can You Go? That reality show became our life.”
Make no mistake. Markus, 41, loathes the billionaire developer turned politician but is fixated by his persona, even if he finds him to be a boor and a buffoon. With endless fascination, he endeavors to paint that vague quality that has made Trump so controversial and so popular for so many.
“I’m not into Trump,” laughs Markus, whose beard and unkempt hair make him slightly resemble Vincent Van Gogh. More than a caricature, Markus has made a theme of Trump’s bouffant, puffed out and slightly ridiculous but unmistakable, he says.
That satire is not something he learned at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan or the Midrasha for Art and Education at Beit Berl.
“I work from joy. I never painted political figures before. I was shocked when he [Trump] was elected,” he says.
If that blonde comb-over is instantly recognizable in Markus’s oeuvre, the rest of his paintings are vague and lackluster, suggesting Trump’s amorphous political ideology that’s big on bluster but lacking in detail.
When Trump launched his candidacy for the Grand Old Party in the 2016 presidential election, Markus was flabbergasted. He “couldn’t believe it,” he says.
“Something about him got to me.”
But when voters picked Trump as a way of repudiating traditional American politics, Markus says he was terrified, even “repulsed” by Trump’s “way of treating people and minorities.”
As Trump bulldozed his way across history and social convention, Markus found himself mesmerized like a deer in a car’s headlights. He could not look away from the White House’s denizen with his “orange face and yellow hair” whose laconic tweets inundated the world’s social media.
“I’m obsessed,” Markus acknowledges.
In 2016, he slap-dashed his first oil portrait in horror and trauma. For more than four years, he’s been unable to stop capturing Trump’s swagger on canvas and wood. The man at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW became his muse. Quasi-realistic, Markus’s tortured portraits are instantly recognizable in oozing Trump’s angry visage and inchoate policies.
“The first paintings were much more colorful and faster,” Markus says. Triggered by Trump’s uncouth comments, he would blitz out a painting in as little as five minutes. It was a rushed reaction that was the antithesis of Andy Warhol’s polished portraits of Chairman Mao, he explains.
“It’s a serious joke. I paint him [Trump] in my own way.”
Markus’s oeuvre of 150 portraits range from 2 cm. x 3 cm. to 25 cm. x 35 cm.
Following Trump’s reelection defeat and failed coup at the Capitol, Markus’s most recent portraits have assumed a more “pathetic” edge.
“Now I feel he’s like a tragic figure,” he says. “He became a complex person instead of an image, instead of an icon.”
“The way he holds himself was different after he lost,” he explains. “Before that, I really felt he thought he was God.”
“I’m not a person who needs a drama to paint,” Markus concludes. “I don’t need war, love... I need a journey.”
And painting the 45th president has been “an interesting journey.”
“When collectors come to my studio, I hide them.”
Though Markus has sold one of the portraits, he would like to sell the remainder all together.
“My wish is to find the right gallery in the United States to take this whole documentation.”