The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery unveiled their official portraits of former President Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama. How closely do you think they resemble the Obamas?
Former first lady Michelle Obama with her official portrait by artist Amy Sherald after an unveiling at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery on Feb. 12, 2018.(Photo: SAUL LOEB, AFP/Getty Images)
Baltimore-based portrait artist Amy Sherald and American designer Michelle Smith of Milly are taking their bows, after Obama‘s official FLOTUS portrait was unveiled Monday, along with former President Barack Obama‘s, by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
In her portrait, Mrs. Obama is wearing a striking Milly gown in white with geometric shapes, meant to evoke both the geometric work of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian and the quilts of Gee’s Bend, the remote community of black artists and quilters in Alabama, as ArtNet reported.
It’s a new dress for Obama, although over the years she was FLOTUS she did occasionally wear Milly, including on during her last stroll through the White House in January 2017 when she wore a Milly striped top with statement sleeves while posing on stairs with her dogs, Bo and Sunny.
The portraits were commissioned by the Portrait Gallery for its collection; the artists were chosen by the Obamas. Barack Obama‘s portrait was painted by Kehinde Wiley, an artist best known for his vibrant, large-scale paintings of African-Americans.
Tom Hanks and artis Amy Sherald, right, pose for a photograph before the unveiling of the official portraits for former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Feb. 12, 2018. (Photo: Andrew Harnik, AP)
Since she was chosen for the Obama portrait, the 44-year-old artist has become an art-market success story. ArtNet described her work as “exquisitely rendered portraits that are as calmly assured as the African-American subjects gazing out from their canvases.”
“Perhaps you would like to buy one? Fat chance—at $50,000 apiece, all three were secured for museums on the fair’s opening day,” ArtNet reported. “Anyone who wants a Sherald for themselves has to get at the back of a long and growing line.”
Mrs. Obama praised and thanked Sherald, adding that she was humbled by the experience of sitting for a portrait, her first ever, the first for her family. She was especially touched by the predicted effect on young people of seeing an African-American artist‘s portrait of the nation’s first African-American first lady hanging in the gallery.
“I’m also thinking of all the young people, particularly girls and girls of color, who … will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution,” she said. “I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives, because I was one of those girls.”
“People snarking on the Michelle Obama portrait should really take 2 minutes to see it in the context of Amy Sherald‘s other portraits,” tweeted a user named Schooley, who provided some examples of Sherald‘s work.
“Whatcha think? Pretty nice, isn’t it?”
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