Former President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama took what could be considered the last act of their administration. They sat for official portraits destined for the National Portrait Gallery to hang next to portraits of Washington, Lincoln, Clinton and Bush. Reactions, so far, are… ah.. mixed.
The portraits were unveiled at a ceremony this morning that drew former administration officials and a spattering of Hollywood types, including Steven Spielberg, wife, Kate Capshaw and Tom Hanks.
These CANNOT be the official Obama White House portraits. They just can't. NOTHING is this awful on purpose. pic.twitter.com/RtgScx2WM1
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) February 12, 2018
The Obama official portraits are beautiful in every way. The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. pic.twitter.com/SWXLyLn3N0
— Timi Carl (@whenyourastar) February 12, 2018
Both Obamas chose noted African-American artists to paint them. Kehinde Wiley tackled the former President and Amy Sherald painted the former first lady.
Needless to say, they came up with wildly differing interpretations and messages.
The president chose an informal look. He wore a suit with an open collar. He was seated, amid a sea of what looks like ivory. The president said he didn’t want to end up looking like Napoleon.
The First Lady’s portrait was more stylized and contemporary. She wore a dress with a flowing skirt printed with traditional African designs.
The president called his portrait “pretty sharp,” and said Michelle’s captured the “hotness of the woman that I love.”
“I am a little overwhelmed to say the least,” Michelle Obama said at first glace at the work. Her skin-tone is a gray-brown color.
The first lady said the deal with Sherald was sealed because of a “kind of sister-girl connection.”
“We shook hands,” Barack Obama joked about his artist.
Reaction to the portraits was mixed at best, even among normally genuflecting celebrities.
Chrissy Teigan wrote simply, “Help Us.” with a photo of Michelle Obama’s portrait.
Social media critics wrote that Michelle’s portrait didn’t look like her.
Others compared President Obama’s floral motif with Beyonce’s birth announcement, which had a similar floral design.
The Obamas’ portraits will go on public view starting tomorrow. President Obama’s will hang in the America’s President’s exhibition.
Michelle Obama’s portrait will be displayed in the recent acquisitions corridor of the museum.