Barack and Michelle Obama Smithsonian Portraits Unveiled

Posted February 14, 2018

An hour later, Michelle Obama and Amy Sherald, the artist the former first lady carefully selected to paint her official portrait, took the stage.

The unveiling of the Obamas' official portraits this week rightfully has generated the criticism this racist couple richly deserves ("Official Obama portraits unveiled at National Portrait Gallery", Web, Feb. 12).

The paintings were revealed Monday at the gallery, which is part of the Smithsonian group of museums.

What do you think of Michelle Obama's portrait dress? They're what set Wiley's and Sherald's works apart from the other presidential portraits, many of which are naturalistic, straight-forward, a little buttoned-up and rendered in browns and grays.

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"Very quickly we arrived at the notion: As opposed to creating a type of echo of historical precedence, we should try to clear the table", Wiley says, and "start at ground level to create something that hasn't been seen before".

"And then you have the African blue lilies that point to the late father of President Barack Obama from Kenya", Caragol explained.

Amy Sherald is based out of Baltimore and known for her life-size paintings of African Americans. As it is also the Black History Month, the unveiling of the Obama portraits created a huge buzz online and Netizens couldn't stop praising the portraits for how beautifully it depicted their "favourite" President and First Lady. One wonders what the sitter divulged to the portraitist, who has experienced her own trials-deaths in the family, a heart transplant.

Sherald's portrait shows Michelle Obama posing in a gown designed by Michelle Smith featuring geometric shapes reminiscent of African textiles.

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Kehinde Wiley is a NY native recognized for his depictions of young African American men with urban vogue appeal.

"When I'm approaching these guys, there's a presupposed engagement", Wiley told Art Newspaper in 2008. He deserves the decadence and the opulence of a Kehinde Wiley painting - whose work often depicts black people with an nearly Baroque level of drama, using a lot of color to create images that turn people into heroic royalty. But these portraits will remind future generations how much wish fulfillment was embodied in the Obamas, and how gracefully they bore that burden. They were first unveiled yesterday in a private observance as they celebrated the Gallery's 50th anniversary.

Perhaps as a sign of the growing polarisation that the United States is experiencing, both portraits generated praise and admiration from the critics, who highlighted the place of the Obama in the history of the U.S., and reactions from a perplexed public, trying to decipher the message.

There has been some criticism, especially on social media, that the portraits are odd, and that Sherald's painting doesn't particularly look like Michelle Obama. She also makes a point of painting "civilians".

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In 2009, Michael Jackson commissioned a portrait, which wasn't painted until after the king of pop passed.