Barack and Michelle Obama’s official portraits were unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, which is considered a rite of passage for most former presidents, all of whom have their portraits hanging in the museum. This particular unveiling was notable because of the artists the Obama’s selected. Barack Obama chose Kehinde Wiley, a Yale University-trained painter famous for his depiction of African-Americans posed in the style of Old Master paintings. Wiley apparently took thousands of photographs of the former President in order to create the portrait. Typically, previous Presidents have ‘sat’ for their portraits. The actual depiction of Barack Obama looks pretty typical of what you might expect, but it’s the background that’s so wildly different, with a variety of symbolic flowers woven into a greenery of leaves.
For her portrait, Michelle Obama chose Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald. She’s known for her unique style, often painting black skin tones in gray as a way to take away the assigned “color” of her subjects. Sherald’s work is less about realism in composition and more about shape and color. The Obamas looked at the portfolios of more than two dozen artists before deciding on Wiley and Sherald. Barack Obama’s portrait will hang in the hall of presidents and the former first lady’s will be placed in another gallery. Both will be open to public viewing on Tuesday.
Image source: https://www.cnn.com