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The Obamas’s Presidential Portraits

The Obama’s Presidential Portrait

By: Madeline Moore

At the beginning of this week former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama’s portraits was shown off to the world at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. where all the former presidents and first ladies portraits are showcased. Obama’s portrait was done by New York based visual artist Kehinde Wiley while Michelle’s was done by Amy Sherald. The two portraits were quite different from portraits of the past.

Kehinde Wiley was born in Los Angeles, California in 1977 but resides in New York. He gained popularity, in the early 2000s, as an artist, with his life-size paintings of young African American men dressed in hip-hop styles but with an old European theme. These photos can be seen on his website. (http://kehindewiley.com/).

Amy Sherald was born in Columbus, Georgia in 1973 but lives in Baltimore. She just recently began her career again after some health issues took a turn for the worse. Her smooth technique of paint application and fun colours can be sen in almost all her work. (http://www.amysherald.com/).

Presidential portraits usually portray presidents in an office or sitting in a chair., however this year it was diiferent. Obama’s portrait, just over seven feet tall, features him sitting in a chair, black suite on, elbows resting on his knees and his hands in a crossed position. A serious, authoritarian pose that contrasting the backdrop. The backdrop consists of greenery and flowers taking up the rest of the canvas. The flowers, carefully chosen, are quite representational. African blue lilies represent Kenya for Obama’s father’s birthplace, jasmine represents Hawaii, where he was born, and chrysanthemums are the official flower of Chicago where Obama met Michelle and where his career in politics started.   

Michelle Obama’s features  her sitting down in a gown consisting of black, grey, white, red, pink, and yellow as it flows on all sides. Her hand is placed under her chin and the backdrop is a light powder blue.

These beautifully rendered portraits, both unique in their own way, are sure to stand out against the presidential portraits of the past.

Not only are the Obama’s the first African-American presidential couple to be shown off in the portrait collection but the artists that were commissioned to create these works of art are African-American as well. Also, both artists have participated and helped address politics of race in their body of work in the past.

These works will be showcased at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery for all to see. 

(link to picture) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/12/arts/design/obama-portrait.html



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