Barack and Michelle Obamas' Official Portraits Are Unlike Any Others in History
On Monday, Barack and Michelle Obama announced the unveiling of their official portraits at Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Barack’s portrait was created by artist Kehinde Wiley, who, according to the BBC, is known for his “Old Master-style depiction of African-Americans.” As CNN noted, Wiley is also a Yale University-trained painter and often poses his subjects in paintings that are “regal, formal and filled with pops of color.” Wiley is the first African-American artist to produce an official presidential portrait.
"Nobody in my family tree as far as I can tell had their portrait done," Barack joked while unveiling the portrait that shows him sitting against a backdrop of lush, green ivy with vibrant flowers. As for Barack’s first reaction to the artwork, he simply and cooly stated, "How about that? That's pretty sharp.” He added, "I tried to negotiate less gray hair and Kehinde's artistic integrity would not allow (him) to do what I asked. I tried to negotiate smaller ears. Struck out on that as well."
Meanwhile, Michelle’s portrait was done by artist Amy Sherald, whose work often addresses social justice.
"Amy, I want to thank you for so spectacularly capturing the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm and hotness of the woman I love," Barack said at the unveiling of his wife’s portrait.
Beyond loving her new portrait, Michelle explained that she chose Sherald so that young African American women will not only see someone like them hanging on a museum’s walls, but will know that the person who painted it was a role model for them as well.
"They will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the walls of this great American institution ... and I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives because I was one of those girls," Michelle said.
Both portraits will be available for public viewing starting on Tuesday.