Barrack and Michelle Obama's portraits revealed at National Portrait Gallery

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 COUPLED UP Michelle and Barack Obama

"I tried to negotiate less grey hair and Kehinde's artistic integrity would not allow him to do what I asked", Mr Obama recalled on Monday, when the official portraits of the United States' first black president and his wife Michelle were unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

The paintings were revealed Monday at the gallery, which is part of the Smithsonian group of museums.

The Wiley portrait of Obama can be seen left, and, at first, it resembles an awkward photoshop.

Inside of the exhibit focusing on America's Presidents, you will find George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and a lot of other portraits of presidents that look somewhat the same. "You exist in our minds and our hearts in the way that you do because we can see ourselves in you", Sherald said. Her paintings have less realism and focus on shape and color. The subject though, is a departure for the artist, who are often, as the Village Voice described in 2015, "young people of color who in these pictures are gussied up in the trappings of art history or Givenchy".

Despite the critics, Michelle Obama's biggest fan, her husband, former president Barack Obama, had nothing but admiration for the portrait.

"We miss the way those who worked with us on this incredible journey carried yourselves and worked so hard to make this country a better place", he said. More recently he has expanded his repertoire to include female subjects, as well as models from Brazil, India, Nigeria and Senegal, creating the collective image of a global black aristocracy.

Sherald thanked her subject and explained the way she transforms her portraits of American people from individual subjects into archetypes. She tells All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro that she was keenly aware of the challenge of painting an already famous person.




For Michelle Obama's official White House portrait, she chose artist Amy Sherald.

Wiley, an established artist whose work is held by prominent museums worldwide, has produced a characteristically flat, nearly polished surface, with intensely rich colors and a busy, sumptuous background that recalls his interest in portraiture.

The Obama portrait fits within the same style.

"Where have I seen that background before?" he mused. Using this the gray, she says, is a way for her to comment on race without confronting the viewer.

Wiley is known for painting young African-American men in bright, bold, regal settings that are influenced by art history.

Throughout her eight years in the White House, designers like Derek Lam, Zac Posen, and Prabal Garung have enjoyed the distinct sartorial honor of dressing Michelle Obama.

"I used the same cotton poplin and minimal, geometric print to create something more conservative and modern", Smith says of the revised design added a bow sash waist and a slightly fuller skirt.

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