These portraits have been the most anticipated presidential/FLOTUS paintings, mainly due to the artists the Obamas tapped to complete the pieces. For his portrait, the former Commander-In-Chief selected queer, black artist Kehinde Wiley to undertake capturing his likeness. The Yale University-trained painter is the first African-American artist to take on an official presidential portrait for the National Portrait Gallery.
Leave it to Obama to make history with his artist choice. AH-Mazing!!
Unsurprisingly, 44 was blown away by Wiley’s work, who painted the Hawaii-born politician sitting against a colorful backdrop. During his speech at the Smithsonian‘s National Portrait Gallery, Barack noted:
“How about that? That’s pretty sharp… 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.”
Art critics have also celebrated Obama’s artist choice as it introduces contemporary work and diversity to the famed gallery. On why Wiley was the perfect selection, 29-year-old activist and critic Antwaun Sargent told Huffington Post back in November:
“I grew up in Chicago. I knocked on doors in the dead of winter when Obama was running for Senate. To see him choose an openly queer, black man who has devoted his career to depicting black folks, it’s really full circle for me.”
Mrs. Obama also selected an influential black artist, named Amy Sherald, for her portrait. After Michelle’s painting was unveiled, she noted that she “was a little overwhelmed, to say the least.” She went on to note the impact Sherald’s work will have on “girls and girls of color”:
“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.”
You can ch-ch-check out the ENTIRE unveiling for yourself (below).
Across the board, it seems that everyone thinks the portraits are beautifully done. However, some believe Sherald missed the boat will trying to capture Michelle’s likeness. Chrissy Teigen and countless others commented:
THESE PORTRAITS ARE UNLIKE ANYTHING A PRESIDENT HAS EVER DONE. IM CRYING ITS SO BEAUTIFUL.
— Akilah Hughes (@AkilahObviously) February 12, 2018
We’d be better off as a country if the White House was being run by the Portraits of Barack Obama & Michelle Obama, which were just unveiled by the National Portrait Gallery then having a real-life version of Trump at the controls.
— Ed Krassenstein (@EdKrassen) February 12, 2018
@BarackObama‘s portrait shows him not as a self-assured, standard-issue bureaucrat, but as an alert and troubled thinker.@MichelleObama‘s portrait overemphasizes an element of couturial spectacle, but also projects a rock-solid cool. https://t.co/X5c3vOFtth
— Bonface Nyangla (@BonfaceNyangla) February 12, 2018
I don’t think Michelle Obama’s official portrait actually looks like her
— Sam Stein (@samstein) February 12, 2018
Regardless, the Obamas are happy with the paintings, with Barack even praising at one point:
“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.”
[Image via Smithsonian/Twitter.]