Presidential Portraits – The Obama’s Portraits Unveiled
The Obama’s official portraits were unveiled on Monday, February 12th 2018. These portraits will reside at the nation’s only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House, the exhibition in the Smithsonian Institution.
The exhibition tells the American story through the presidents who have shaped history. Beginning with President George H. W. Bush, the National Portrait Gallery initiated a process by which the museum would commission a portrait of each president.
Presidents select their artist of choice. This amazing opportunity for the selected portrait artists will bring a new level of visibility to their work.
The Obama’s selected Kehinde Wiley, a Yale University-trained painter.
Artist Kehinde Wiley
Wiley style often references Old Masters paintings for the pose of the figure. His paintings often blur the boundaries between traditional and contemporary modes of representation. Rendered in a realistic mode—while making references to specific Old Master paintings—Wiley creates a fusion of period styles, ranging from French Rococo, Islamic architecture and West African textile design to urban hip hop. His work is large, bright and vibrant with splashes of bold colors and contrasts.
Wiley earned his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1999 and his MFA from Yale University, School of Art in 2001.
Artist Amy Sherald
For her painting, Michelle Obama chose Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald. Sherald is another African-American artist known for her unique style utilizing grey scale and and contrasting colors.
She is best known for her portrait paintings that address social justice, as well as her choice of subjects, which are drawn from outside of the art historical narrative. Through her work, she takes a closer look at the way people construct and perform their identities in response to political, social, and cultural expectations.
“I paint American people, and I tell American stories through the paintings I create,” Sherald said at the unveiling ceremony. “Once my paintings are complete, the model no longer lives in the painting as themselves. I see something bigger, more symbolic, an archetype.”
From Traditional to Modern
The media for presidential imagery has ranged everywhere from the traditional oil-on-canvas and marble to cotton handkerchiefs and sewing-box lids, and the Gallery houses a richly varied array of presidential likenesses.
The first painter to paint a presidential portrait was Gilbert Stuart and his portrait of George Washington painted in 1797.