Barack & Michelle Obama’s Official Portraits Have Been Revealed

Elle

Former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s official White House portraits were revealed today. The two paintings are different in style, but both are iconic. Barack said that Michelle’s portrait captured her “hotness”.

These are the official portraits of the Obamas today unveiled at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. Watch the ceremony here: https://t.co/WO4cIqxYRe pic.twitter.com/mHiF4lYtsS

— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) February 12, 2018

The Obama’s portraits are the first presidential portraits that are painted by black artists. The Obamas were the first black presidential family and they solidified their legacy by also having their portraits be painted by black artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald.

“I am thinking about all the young people, particularly girls and girls of color, who in years ahead will come to this place and they will look up, and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall,” Michelle said at the portrait unveiling.

I LOVE that Barack and Michelle Obama chose Black artists to paint their portraits. The Obamas were America's first Black first family, so it's fitting they bestowed this "first" on two Black artists as well. pic.twitter.com/nQfofwJVTy

— Britni Danielle (@BritniDWrites) February 12, 2018

The Obama’s portraits, which will be displayed at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery, were a hit. Twitter was filled with accolades for the portraits and, of course, a few memes.

Deep bow to Kehinde Wiley. This is a wonderful piece.
Get to know his work: https://t.co/RTE7GwnVTn https://t.co/QvjU8op9hb

— Karen Wickre ☕️ (@kvox) February 12, 2018

pic.twitter.com/HybiM4aIoU

— Jordan Valinsky (@jordan327) February 12, 2018

sorry pic.twitter.com/ApQYOf5XF7

— Shoshana Weissmann, Sloth Committee Chair (@senatorshoshana) February 12, 2018

Can we talk about how stunningly powerful it is to see a black man in a garden the way Kehinde Wiley painted Barack Obama?!

It dismantles so much and creates new visions of masculinity that black men rarely have the public permission to explore. pic.twitter.com/pwycHtbbDX

— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) February 12, 2018

And Amy Sherald has OUR Michelle looking so divinely royal in garb others wouldn’t deem so.

This is a reenvisioning of excellence for black girls everywhere-for everyone of us, and every one who couldn’t understand us. pic.twitter.com/Zmnq7pO7LK

— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) February 12, 2018

Lock screen, wallpaper pic.twitter.com/IoLNYWBaQW

— Sean Brewster (@TheSeanBrewster) February 12, 2018

Is there a photoshopper in the house tonight that can photoshop these onto some church fans. Asking for a friend. pic.twitter.com/5qUNTpYdrm

— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) February 12, 2018

Consider it done pic.twitter.com/YJqiPJ0zQG

— In-Doo-Bee-See (@N_du_Time) February 12, 2018

Kehinde Wiley said the garden fights for attention as if to ask what is more important— the story or the man inhabiting the story? His speech was a brilliant mini-lecture. #myNPG https://t.co/51W5Si68nY pic.twitter.com/UarIqcwrVF

— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) February 12, 2018

The revealing of President & First Lady Obama's portraits is a great opportunity for those who know & love art to be in a learning conversation with those who don't. Instead of, you know, making fun of them.

— Ashley C. Ford (@iSmashFizzle) February 12, 2018

What Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley did with their portraits of Michelle and Barack Obama is iconic. The legend jumped out. pic.twitter.com/H4clrkTYe3

— Ira Madison III (@ira) February 12, 2018

Kehinde Wiley painted Barack and Amy Sherald painted Michelle’s portrait. Wiley is a New York artist who combines Old Master paintings with contemporary components. He is known for painting black people with bright, often floral, backgrounds.

Most classical paintings are of white people, so he takes that same classical Old Master style and creates a story about black people that have been ignored in classical portraits. Obama said that Wiley wanted to originally paint him on a horse.

Amy Sherald is a Baltimore based artist who only paints African-Americans. Her paintings focus on race and identity of African-American’s. She paints her skin tones in greyscale and the background is usually a solid color.

Her greyscale paintings visually break the stereotypes connecting skin color to racial stereotypes. Wiley painted Michelle in the same style and included Mondrian squares and patchwork details on her dress to pay homage to rural black communities.

Both portraits are beautiful and groundbreaking in their own ways.

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