Published: Wed, February 14, 2018

Obamas' official portraits revealed at the Smithsonian

Obamas' official portraits revealed at the Smithsonian

"Michelle's hands are too large". During the portraits' unveiling on Monday, I heard several exclamations of "What?" and "Really?" in the ThinkProgress newsroom. It was the picturesque background of Barack Obama's photo. The former president gave the two artists high marks.

Philip Kennicott, the Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic for The Washington Post, wrote that "The first lady inhabits a world of calm, clarity and Wedgwood-hued enlightenment".

"It's a goofy painting", added Ingraham.

The painting is also interpreted as a radical statement uprooting traditional notions of power, as the former president is depicted dressed down and sitting among flowers.

Both portraits will hang in Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. alongside those of previous American leaders.

With the unveiling here Monday at the National Portrait Gallery of the official presidential likenesses of Barack Obama and the former first lady, Michelle Obama, this city of myriad monuments gets a couple of new ones, each radiating, in its different way, gravitas (his) and glam (hers).

The painting is shocking because Sherald has somehow conjured a vision of Michelle Obama, one of the most photographed women in history, that we have not yet seen-one free of the candid Washingtonian glamour ... Barack Obama, himself, sits before a veritable tapestry of kelly green leaves with a few bursts of color from flowers rich in symbolism - African blue lilies for his Kenyan heritage, jasmine for his birthplace of Hawaii and chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago. She's not centered in her painting, but rising above the center. Wiley elevates people in our world who'd otherwise be invisible, he said, like those who serve the food or keep this museum clean. Hannity's tweet and the article have been since deleted.


A piece in The New Yorker described Wiley as "a glittering propagandist who catapults the common black man and the occasional black woman into historical environments of rearing equines and colonial fleur-de-lis tapestries".

Those unfamiliar with Sherald's other works were struck by her distinct visual style, but the decisions Sherald makes with colors serve a powerful goal and are present throughout her other works. Realistic renderings are also seen as a bit retardataire in some corners, so Sherald's painting may be deemed out of step with contemporary art fixations.

Twitter had mixed reactions to the portraits.

To begin, both portraits depart sharply from those of the Obamas' predecessors. They are just being themselves. What do you think the artists were trying to convey - and do you think they were successful?

The memeification of the portraits happened at lightening speed.

The Obama portraits will join the "America's Presidents" exhibition at the gallery and will be made public on February 13. They posed, hammed, and hugged before Obama spoke: "Look at that".

Opinions on art, like politics, are passionate and fiercely held.

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