Barack and Michelle Obama's Glorious Smithsonian Portraits Unveiled

Esther Moore
February 16, 2018

The paintings by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, were revealed at a star-studded event that is a rite of passage for most former American presidents. The nation's first African American President chose the first Black artist, Kehinde Wiley.

The 44th president said he asked Wiley, who is known for painting African Americans posed in the style of Old Master paintings, to avoid god-like or regal flourishes.

Created by Congress in 1962, the National Portrait Gallery began commissioning portraits of outgoing presidents in 1994 with Ronald Sherr's painting of George H.W. Bush.

"The ability to be first African-American painter to paint the first African-American doesn't get any better than that", Wiley said during his remarks.

Obama gave this reason for choosing Wiley, "What I was always struck by when I saw his portraits was the degree to which they challenged our ideas of power and privilege".

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Barack and Michelle Obama Commissioned in Historic Smithsonian Gallery
Wiley is known for painting young African-American men in bright, bold, regal settings that are influenced by art history. The Obama portrait fits within the same style. "I see something bigger in them, something more symbolic, an archetype".

Others tried to express how underwhelmed they were by the portrait while trying not to offend the artist. A spokesperson told CBS News on Tuesday that "due to security concerns" the secretary "has a blanket waiver to fly in first or business class", a decision that has increasingly come under scrutiny as President Trump's Cabinet draws concerns over their expensive travel.

Mrs Obama said she was "a little overwhelmed, to say the least", after her portrait was unveiled, adding that she was aware of the impact her portrait would have on "girls and girls of colour". "I am so proud to help make that kind of history". "I want to thank you for so spectacularly capturing the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm and hotness of the woman that I love", Obama said. I can also say that it put me in mind of Andrew Marvell's great metaphysical poem "The Garden", which I have not thought about for almost 50 years. Because what you represent to this country is an ideal.

The exhibit featuring the Obamas' new portraits will open Wednesday. Michelle Obama noted that the couple interviewed the artists before making their selection, and she jokingly apologized for putting them through that stress. Wiley's background choice was also indicative of Obama's background.

Here's the portrait of Barack Obama. "But other than that, they're like your mother or your cousin or your dad", Sherald said in an interview.

Other reports by GlobalViralNews

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