On Monday morning, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery unveiled the official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama. Respectively painted by renowned Black artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, the portraits were undoubtedly two of the most talked about in presidential history.
“How about that? That’s pretty sharp,” Barack said of his portrait during the event. “I tried to negotiate less gray hair and Kehinde’s artistic integrity would not allow (him) to do what I asked,” he then joked. “I tried to negotiate smaller ears. Struck out on that as well.”
Barack’s portrait captures him sitting in a wooden chair against a backdrop of flourishing greenery, while Michelle’s portait—regal and understated—places her in front of a pastel blue backdrop in a billowing, patterned gown.
Michelle said she “was a little overwhelmed, to say the least,” upon her portrait’s reveal, adding that “girls and girls of color” will “see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the walls of this great American institution.” Barack, who said he was stunned by “the degree to which [Wiley and Sherald] challenged our ideas of power and privilege” through their work, also thanked Sherald for “so spectacularly capturing the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm and hotness of the woman I love.”
Of course, with art comes criticism. Many users took to Twitter shortly after the reveal to comment on how they felt the portraits (particularly Michelle’s) didn’t accurately capture the Obamas’ likenesses. We’d say both artists did a wonderful job delivering unique and impressive interpretations of the presidential couple.
What say you? Take a closer look at the portraits, along with some reactions, below: