What do you think of Barack & Michelle Obama’s official portraits?

Embed from Getty Images

I kind of wish that presidents and former presidents could have their choice in what kind of portraiture medium they wanted for their formal portraits. Like, how many of them would choose to just sit for an esteemed photographer, as opposed to sitting for a painted portrait? But for some reason, we cling to painted portraits for presidents. Which is where we are now. Michelle and Barack Obama unveiled their official portraits yesterday and a lot of people have a lot of thoughts. Let’s start with former President Obama’s portrait, painted by African-American art superstar Kehinde Wiley:

Embed from Getty Images

How are we judging this? I give it bonus points because you can tell it’s Obama. Wiley captured him perfectly. I personally don’t like the whole “Obama seated in a chair, leaning forward.” That’s strange body language for the former POTUS. As for the “Wall of Leaves” behind, surrounding and almost overtaking Obama… I kind of enjoy how trippy it is. It feels like it was painted by a very talented marijuana enthusiast.

Michelle’s portrait was painted by African-American art-world rising star Amy Sherald. Here is is:

Embed from Getty Images

This one has the kind of elegance I need for a FLOTUS portrait. She’s wearing a gorgeous ballgown, she looks regal, and it’s a striking and modern image. My problem with this is that Sherald didn’t really get Michelle’s face right. Is this Michelle Obama or Kerry Washington? It’s fine though, I guess. Mostly it’s just nice to see the Obamas and have a few moments where we aren’t terrified about and angry at Donald Trump.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Photos courtesy of Getty.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

129 Responses to “What do you think of Barack & Michelle Obama’s official portraits?”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. aims says:

    God I miss them.

    • homeslice says:

      I am here for everything Obama. I will not even nit pick on this portraits, because after the hell we have been living her in the US, I wanted to cry when I watched our former POTUS and FLOTUS speak yesterday.

      They are both HOT! I miss them terribly!

    • jetlagged says:

      I miss them so much it hurts.

      I made the dreadful mistake (because it was so heartbreaking) of watching the documentary just out about Obama’s foreign policy team during their final year in office. All of them were passionate, dedicated, professional, intelligent, compassionate, and highly capable. By the end I was ugly crying because all their hard work has been completely undone in just a year by the buffoon and his cronies now occupying the White House. It’s not fair.

      On the bright side, it showed all the times Pres. Obama traveled abroad in that final year and made time to speak to students or young professionals about how they can made the world a better place. They are his true legacy, and in ten or fifteen years they are the ones that will be running the world. It gave me such hope (assuming we survive the next few years).

      • lucy2 says:

        I had the same feeling a while ago – Dump had just undone some good environmental policy Obama had done, simply because he had done it, and I got so mad. But then I too remembered that Obama really inspired a lot of people, and will be held up as a positive role model for decades to come. You can’t undo that. You can’t undo the effect he and his family had on so many.

    • lisa says:

      If you go to the artist website (for Michelle’s painting), you see that most of the artist’s portraits use this same face, as if they are all related to each other. The faces are symbolic. I don’t know why Michelle would choose this artist.

    • BooBooLaRue says:

      this is my safe place where I too can say how much I admire the Obamas and miss them. It’s a rough world out there.

      • Gina says:

        Hi Lucy2

        Just wanted to let you know President Obama is revered and loved with the same kind of affection and pride, here in South Africa (s***hole country) as Nelson Mandela. Please don’t ever doubt that he and the First Lady are an inspiration to the entire African content and his legacy will continue, globally, for generations to come.
        God Bless America and God Bless President and Mrs Obama

      • Janetdr says:

        Thank you Gina. I hope we have something better to offer the world soon.

      • LeeB75 says:

        @Gina Shout-out from another S.African! You are right, the Obamas give us joy and hope down here in South Sh*thole (given our own political situation…

  2. Hh says:

    I’m sure it’s to Michelle’s liking since she picked the artist, however, dislike it… A LOT. Michelle is such a vibrant woman, full of life, and I wanted something to reflect that. Not only that, but the photo doesn’t look like her. Moreso like someone who could possibly be related to her.

    I liked Barack’s portrait. And overall, I’m glad they chose to spotlight two black artists.

    • Nicole says:

      Agreed. I love Barack’s but Michelle’s…nah

    • V4Real says:

      In the fourth pic it looks like Obama was passing by Michelle’s photo when he stopped and asked who that hell is that, Kerry Wadhington.

      • Amide says:


      • NotSoSocialButterfly says:

        Yeah, the painter has given Michelle an oval fave, but she really has a diamond-shaped face. Because cheekbones for days!

      • Janetdr says:

        Hahaha! I like the artist’s style, but for a portrait I want to see Michelle as the beautiful strong woman she truly is. I’m not wild about Barack’s pose either, but I’ll take anything that doesn’t embarrass or shame me as an American these days….

    • STRIPE says:

      Such a great point. Her warmth and light are totally lost here. But since she chose the artist she must have known what she was getting. I hope she loves it even if we all don’t!

    • Nancy says:

      I miss them both terribly, especially given the fact who lives in their house now. I don’t like the portraits. President Obama looks lost in the woods, he deserves better. While Michelle’s body shows strength, the face is so off. Can’t remember too many times where she wasn’t smiling. You can look at President Obama’s face pointing at his portrait and see he finds it amusing. I miss him so.

    • Esmom says:

      I love them both but agree that a more vibrant style would probably have been better for Michelle. In fact I think it would have been cool if Wiley had painted both.

      • yUPtime'sUP says:

        Barack’s is Interesting, and we will remember it for a long time. Michelle’s is so vacant, you have to read into it as either haunting or forgetably vapid.

      • Flan says:

        Michelle still looks so beautiful. Wish that translated more into the portrait.

    • Shambles says:

      Some great context for the portraits that’s been floating around:


      They both knew exactly what they were getting, Michelle included. I love POTUS’s, especially because each flower represents a part of his history and heritage. And the juxtaposition of the powerful look in his eyes and the florals captures his commanding essence and his compassionate heart. I also like Michelle’s, and dig the fact that it’s more of an abstract paining. Unique, stylish, and not like any other. Just like her. Very fitting for the first WOC FLOTUS.

      Congrats to the first black artists commissioned to paint presidential portraits! And to the first black president and First Lady, of course. We’re pretending they’re still in charge, right????

      • Blannie says:

        Thank you, that Facebook post was very helpful.

      • Erinn says:

        I like the paintings, honestly. Especially Barack’s because I love the greenery. But I really like Michelle’s too. I wish it had had a subtle background to it, just because they would look a little more like a set if it did. But as it is – I think it’s incredibly pretty. No, it doesn’t look identical to her, but I think it’s a very regal, refined looking pose – but I do wish there had been a little more warmth to it. Either way though, I think it’s interesting, and it’s getting people to talk about it – which is a big part about what makes art interesting.

      • KiddV says:

        Kehinde Wiley is such a talented artist, but I’m not a fan of the baroque-type backgrounds. His painting of Barack is amazing, the greenery sort of takes away from that. I feel like he’s using these backgrounds as a hook to stand out, and he doesn’t need a hook. Of course, if I could afford it, I’d have him paint me, crazy background and all! LOL

        I love Michelle’s once I saw Amy Sherald’s other paintings. I wasn’t familiar with her work. She’s also very talented. I read on FB, someone said that the more you look at Michelle’s face in the painting, the more it looks like her and captures her expressions. I agree.

      • Julianne says:

        Great FB post, thx for sharing. I love both portraits personally. They are very contemporary pieces and they represent the era in which they were painted.

        Look back at Bill Clinton’s http://npg.si.edu/object/npg_L_NPG.5.2009 and JFK’s http://npg.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.99.75 and they’re very indicative of the each president’s time.

      • someone says:

        I get that the flowers around Obama have meaning, but why so many leaves? He looks lost in the leaves to me.

    • BooBooLaRue says:

      Michelle’s is a good painting but of someone else. I first thought it was Malia when I looked at it. Good but not MO’s beautiful countenance.

    • Godwina says:

      Agree. I don’t think either portrait reflects them well. I love weird ultra contemporary art that most people hate, and I love that the Os went in that direction, but I can’t with these results. They’re just… off. Flat.

    • Nikki says:

      Michelle’s portrait does not capture her face at all; what a disaster, since her face is so vibrant. I’m saddened by this. The President’s could have been better.

  3. Loopy says:

    Michelle’s painting is an absolute joke…looks nothing like her! Omg how did this artist get commissioned for this and I am guessing they only saw them at the reveal,very poor job. Artist should be ashamed.

    • Lucytunes says:

      The portrait is in line with all her other works. She paints people of color with very stark black or gray figures with colorful clothing and backgrounds with abstract shapes. Michelle knew what she was doing when she picked Amy. Also, I don’t believe the images aren’t vetted prior to unveiling.

      Not everyone has to like it. It’s art, have your own interpretation. However, this artist has NOTHING to be ashamed of and I think Michelle knew what she wanted and chose this artist to represent that.

      • Loopy says:

        Still Ashy!

      • LT says:

        I really like both of them – they are contemporary and modern and fresh. I think it’s great for the portraits to be more reflective of current art – not everything needs to be so traditional.

      • Esmom says:

        LT, agreed. They really are a breath of fresh air, like the Obamas themselves were. But I said above that I would have been cool if Wiley had painted both, I think it would have been interesting to see his interpretation of Michelle.

    • hindulovegod says:

      Kim Sajet of the National Gallery explained that the commissioned portraits are approved by the subjects and curators prior to the public unveiling. The artists are chosen by the subjects from a pool pre-selected by the curators. The Obamas were given portfolios of about 20 artists from which they could pick.

  4. RBC says:

    I would never have thought that was Michelle Obama.

  5. Patricia says:

    Obama is a lot more handsome than that portrait. The way that artist rendered the nose and the brow, especially between the eyebrows, makes him look kind of ugly. The man is not ugly! Also the balance is quite strange, with the top half of the portrait feeling too heavy. All that foliage seems to be crushing him into a tired, forward seated position.

    Michelle’s is ok… I love that her arms are on display there. But I agree the face doesn’t capture her either.

  6. wood dragon says:

    Barack Obama’s portrait works although there’s something harsh about his face.
    Not crazy about Michelle’s though. It’s so monochromatic that it looks bland and unfinished by comparison with her husband’s.

    • lightpurple says:

      It is so muted that it captures none of her vibrancy. She’s strangely enervated.

      • Alix says:

        She’s been grayed out of her own portrait — it’s all about the dress. And yeah, the face is off.

        I’d like Obama’s more if the foliage were only behind him, not underneath his feet. It would’ve grounded the portrait, which is a bit too trippy for me.

      • smcollins says:

        You took the words right out of my mouth. “Muted” is precisely what came to my mind, too. I was expecting something bolder & more vibrant, like the woman she is.

      • lightpurple says:

        Even in keeping with the gray tones, which apparently is this artist’s style, a little more light and even some shadow could have captured the vitality of the subject more. I’m trying to like it but it is a bit too cold and distancing for me when portraying someone who is so warm and welcoming. I do like the pose and the dress.

      • PunkyMomma says:

        The flowers and leaves surrounding President Obama are indigenous to Illinois, Hawaii, and Kenya.

        I love both of the portraits. As soon as I can find prints of these portraits, they’re going up on my walls.

      • Tiffany :) says:

        Thank you for making me look up what “enervated” means! I feel smarter for having read your comment. 😉

    • Let It Be says:

      They both have an imperious quality that comes through in these portraits. Michelle is overrated on this site. Intelligent and dignified… most definitely yes, but she lost gravitas with all of the magazine covers and talk show appearances; she’s a bit of a show off. They could have done so much more. (I did vote for him both times.)

  7. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I’m trying to like them.

    • deadnotsleeping says:

      When I first saw the pictures yesterday, I didn’t care for them. But they are growing on me. Now every time I see them, I find something new to appreciate.

  8. STRIPE says:

    I love the idea of paintings because they allow for so much artistic freedom. Not that photography in the age of photoshop doesn’t, I guess, but idk. I would just die to be painted by someone like that!

    I love Obama’s and I love Wiley’s point of view in general (check out his Insta, his talent is extraordinary). Michelle’s…I appreciate what’s being called the “flat modernism” and the greyscale, but man it just doesn’t look like her. Such a bummer.

    • Esmom says:

      I agree that painting is the right medium. It keeps with a tradition that began before photography existed yet can also depart quite a bit from tradition, as these portraits illustrate, stylistically.

    • Amide says:

      I’m not American but is there a reason for Pres Obama being in a garden? Is it an Adam & Eve thing?😶

      • STRIPE says:

        Wiley puts subjects against bold, colorful backgrounds like that a lot in his work. Why he chose a garden for this particular painting? I’m not sure. There’s nothing particularly American about gardens that I’m aware of (I’m American.) The flowers represent Hawaii, Kenya, and Chicago though. It also goes with his aesthetic and point of view as an artist in general.

      • Jegede says:

        @STRIPE – Thanks

  9. tracking says:

    I love Michelle’s. The patterning on her skirt suggests the tradition of quilt making. It’s a very glamorous art-deco style rendition that denotes her elegance and force of personality, though I do wish the facial features were closer to life. Overall I like it, and the fact that it’s much more modern. I’m not sure how I feel about the way the foliage is putting so much pressure on Barack’s figure. Sort of like a casual Lincoln Memorial-style representation stuck in flowering shrubbery? I’m sure it’s symbolic, but I’m not quite getting it. I do think it’s interesting that masculinity is presented in a very different way here.

  10. Lucy2 says:

    I like both, but his more than hers. I wish hers had more vibrant colors rather than the grayscale, but she chose this artist and I’m sure is very pleased with it. Both portraits are very unique and interesting, and both artists are very talented.

  11. queenE says:

    Michelle’s portrait looks like an elementary school project winner

  12. QueenB says:

    Baracks looks great, Michellles painting is terrible imho.

  13. Jker says:

    It’s not photography, it’s art. So while I agree that Sherald’s portrait didn’t capture Michelle’s face, i think it did illustrate how regal, beautiful and commanding she is. Do I wish it looked more like Michelle’s face? Of course. But it’s still a wonderful and well done portrait of the first lady.

    I love Barak’s, no qualifiers necessary.

    And maybe I’m just salty bc seeing their faces is like salvation. I need to see their faces as often as possible – everywhere – as I repeat the mantra ‘just a bad president, not a bad country’. Bc every day Canada looks better and better.

    I also think it can’t be said enough how the Obamas quietly lift others up with them. First black artists to ever do a Presidents portrait – they were worried about way more than faces.

    • Esmom says:

      Yes to everything you said especially your last paragraph.

      I was thinking yesterday, who the eff would be willing to paint the Trumps? I shudder to even imagine their likenesses alongside the Obamas in the gallery.

      • Jker says:

        Esmom: lol, right?!? Maybe an animator, like someone who draws the boards for the Simpson’s or Family Guy.

        I can’t think of another type of artist as qualified to capture the farcical, cartoon qualities of the Drumphs. Although a cartoon would somewhat diminish the gravity of the grave damage these orange characters are commiting daily.

      • Kelly says:

        Esmom, I have feeling that some artists will pass on that particular commission. Both of the Trumps seem like impossible clients to satisfy with their considerable egos.

        Of both living and deceased artists, I have Lucian Freud paint 45 in the nude sitting on his favorite toilet tweeting. Freud wasn’t known for flattering his subjects’ vanity and he was also the grandson of Sigmund Freud. For Melania, it’s a tough choice. There’s so many 20th century artists known for taking a dim view of female vanity. Someone like Otto Dix who managed to make even attractive women look like caricatures of themselves in his paintings would be great. She’d also likely be offended by Grant Wood, who’d make her as plain as possible.

      • Kumquat says:

        Esmom, whatever the portrait of Trump looks like, you just KNOW it will have a huge, opulent gold frame and be “the greatest most handsome portrait ever painted in all of both recorded history and pre-history!!! (Heavy sarcasm used)

  14. lower-case deb says:

    i’m not even mad that the artist goes minimalism on Michelle. i’m not even mad that the picture Michelle doesn’t really look like the real one. she can even look like a Picasso or a Dali portrait for all i care…

    but i just wish that her personality shines through the canvas which it didn’t. no vibrancy no zeal no oomph no joie de vivre.

    i feel the artist is afraid to fail because she respects Michelle a lot that she became too cautious… at least that’s what i get from it. too restrained.

  15. Aiobhan Targaryen says:

    I love both of the portraits.

    I also love the top photo of them together. They actually look like they enjoy being around each other.

  16. Beth says:

    These aren’t that good. Baracks isn’t horrible, at least he’s recognizable, but I’d never guess that was a painting of Michelle.

  17. LooseSeal says:

    Do you know what? These portraits are important because they’re amazing black artists given access to a place in history they don’t typically have access to in the past. God I love the Obamas. And I love their portraits. All the ways they choose to celebrate the fact that they’re the first African American family to have been in the White House make me stand and cheer.

    • Mabs A'Mabbin says:

      This. Which is why I’m trying to like them lol. I love art and artistic endeavors. I think if I had my portrait done I’d find an impressionist lmao, or better still… post-impressionism, or better even still… fauvism so I could look all colorful and wonky. So long as it doesn’t look like I’m looking in a mirror ;p.

    • Nan says:

      I agree. I realized today that I already love these portraits with all my heart, they’re memorable, bright, strong, stylish, fresh, bold and modern and so are the Obamas. I love that they each picked an African-American artist and that Michelle picked a woman artist for herself. This is the most exciting turn the art world has seen in ages – painting isn’t dead yet!

  18. Stacy Dresden says:

    I love them. Modern and beautiful.

  19. Escaped Convent says:

    Well, I’m not trying to like it. Unless the canvasses got mixed up and that is Kerry Washington, this is ridiculous and embarrassing.

    Shouldn’t we be able to tell that that’s Michelle Obama?

    And President Obama in the leaves…..I have no idea.

  20. Jayna says:

    There is no likeness to Michelle in that painting. I would never ever know it was Michelle Obama if I wasn’t told, so it is a fail in that regard. I loved the overall style of the painting of Michelle, capturing her essence, a vibe of effortlessly cool with class, if only the face had even remotely resembled her.

  21. Sojaschnitzel says:

    I hate both paintings as much as I like the Obamas (read: a lot). They are vey bad art and I do not share the opinion that Barack’s is well done. His face is too long on the painting. The ratios of his face are not okay. As for hers: that just gets one big laugh from me. I daresay that I could have easily done that better and I dont consider myself a painter.

    • Audi says:

      Couldn’t agree more. I’m amazed at the comments here praising both or one of the portraits. I can’t paint worth a damn but I can appreciate excellent work vs. ridiculous, almost childlike paintings. They are both beyond awful. Regardless of the background/meaning of either, to simply look at them at face-value they’re just embarrassing. And these portraits are going represent these two amazing USA leaders in the Smithsonian? Damn. Huge fail.

  22. Liberty says:

    There’s a good article on Slate that explains the artists, and the nature of the portraits and their meaning. It’s a short Q&A with an art scholar, a Professor Richard J. Powell.

  23. ThenThereIsThat says:

    When I first saw that portrait I was thinking it was Kerry Washington! It looks nothing like Michelle. In fact, that artist made her look like she has more Caucasian features. Michelle is a very expressive, dynamic woman who deserves a better portrait.

    I am sure if that painting would have been done by an equally-talented white artist all hell would have broken lose.

    And Barracks portrait is fine. I am sure Beyoncé is running to have a similar one done of herself as we speak.

  24. adastraperaspera says:

    I don’t love either portrait, but am so happy that they chose African-American artists they liked and gave us the gift of two lovely additions to the gallery. This is our national heritage. These paintings will show future generations a dynamic, modern, dignified couple who made our country better. Also wonderful to see Barack and Michelle! It’s such a difficult time, but we are all still here! Seeing them gives me confidence that we will root out corruption and evil.

  25. Snowflake says:

    So, there’s an article on how the woman artist has done paintings of an African American woman holding the head of a Caucasian woman. I guess after cutting it off. So ridiculous to do an article about that. Just trying to say the artist is racist, Imo. Stupid people. It was on the Daily Mail. I don’t get how people say the Obamas are racist either.

    • Kelly says:

      It’s Wiley who’s getting dragged by certain people on twitter for his take on the Judith with the head of Holofernes imagery.

  26. Pansy says:

    I’m a huge Wiley fan and follow his work, and that background is very typical for him. It has meaning specific to Obama, as well as keeping in line with his philosophy of giving African Americans their time in portraiture with rich backgrounds, fabrics, etc, something they (people of color) missed out on, i.e. the Baroque, the NeoClassical period. I teach art history, so love this man!

    • magnoliarose says:

      I love Obama’s portrait.
      It reminds me distantly of Frida Kahlo and has ethnic energy behind it. It makes me look long and all over the canvas, so I know I am interested.
      I don’t like Michelle’s. I want to and appreciate it, but I don’t like her face.

  27. smee says:

    Kehinde Wiley did Barack justice. I do agree that the posture is not presidential enough. I love how modern and different it looks.

    Unfortunately, Amy Sherald missed the mark. You’re right – it does look like Kerry Washington more than Michelle. I love the dress and the pose. But it somehow looks amateurish and very flat. But, once again, points for being modern and different.

    I hope Dump’s portrait is the one of him nude with the micro-peen.

  28. Harryg says:

    Sorry, I think they are terrible! He is sitting on a toilet, and she’s fading away. I hate these paintings.

  29. Starryfish says:

    I love them! They are interesting and engaging pieces of art independent of their subjects, which often times official portraits aren’t.

  30. Betsy says:

    I was only familiar with Sherald’s decapitation work previously, and those women were so much more vibrantly rendered. I see that grayscale African-Americans has been her style lately, so although it isn’t my thing, fine, but I wish it looked a *bit* more like Mrs. Obama. Maybe it does in person. The dress is fantastic. I love the pose, regal but ready to spill the tea with a friend.

    Mr. Obama’s portrait is just amazing.

  31. Alexandria says:

    My God non-painted Michelle looks very gorgeous here! Glowing! Well rested?

  32. noway says:

    I like both paintings and the style of both is modern and fresh. I agree Michelle’s picture doesn’t look like her that much, my only complaint. Still I saw the two of them and the whole event, and it brought a smile to my face. I really miss many things about the Obamas, but especially No Drama Obama. Trump is so many things, but exhausting comes to mind first.

  33. Save Mueller says:

    I love both of them. I think Michelle’s portrait looks off as it is photographed on the stage here; it looks bolder in other representations where the lighting was better.
    Read about the artists and look at their other works if you have a negative opinion on these portraits, I think a little context might change your mind!

  34. megan says:

    I think they are both awful.

  35. JA says:

    His actually looks like him but hers is a bit off. Still good paintings but prefer his despite all those damn flowers.

  36. Mo says:

    Barack’s portrait looks like him and its contemporary. I like it a lot but it feels…like something in an urban outfitters display. That’s just my opinion. But Michelle’s face is all wrong and looks very amateur. I have not doubt Mobama was like dafuq when they saw it but Michelle is gracious AF and doesn’t let it show.

    That being said, is it really true that the two artists who painted the official portraits are the first African-American artists to have that honor? Props to Mobama for making that happen but it disgusts me that it took a black president to commission a non-white artist. I will have to look more into this but I am really disappointed by the ubiquitous racism that creeps into every aspect of life here in the US. Ughh.

  37. dumbledork says:

    I thought Barack was sitting in front of the ivy at Wrigley Field.

  38. Regina Falangie says:

    Love them dearly and I love the paintings. They are beautiful and special, just like them!!

  39. Sherry says:

    At first I did not care for either portrait, but the former President’s portrait has grown on me and I like it now, though I wish as someone said above that the chair were grounded with the floral background. He almost looks like he’s floating on a chair in the greenery.

    I cannot stand the First Lady’s portrait. Truthfully, an 8th grade art student could have done a better job. I read somewhere that the portraits should show something depicting who they area and I’m just not seeing that with this portrait. It’s bland and looks nothing like her. Michelle is a vibrant, joyful woman and I’m not seeing that woman in this painting.

    I wish Wiley had been commissioned to do both portraits.

  40. Muprhy says:

    They’re not to my taste but I like the artists and the significance of each painting.

  41. Deeanna says:

    What difference does the race of the artist make when they have failed to produce a recognizable portrait of the subject?

    Barrack’s is just okay. The overabundence of greenery is distracting and detracts from the subject. Michelle’s totally fails to capture her – it not only does not look like her, it does not in any way capture her persona.

    Each of these artists could have painted a less stylized portrait while still maintaining their own artistic integrity.

    I suspect there were plenty of oh.my.god reactions when both the national gallery folks and the Obama’s first viewed these paintings. But by then, what to do other than to smile and be gracious.

    When the great masters screwed up they went back and repainted over top of their error. Michelle’s face should be redone because currently it is a disservice to her.

  42. Missy says:

    They added a lot of gravitas to B. Obama’s face in the portrait. Michelle’s face got beauty-fied in its proportions and apparently the beauty standard is set by Kerry Washington.

  43. Lorelai says:

    I dislike them both and am getting very resentful of being told I just don’t “get” them and need to read about the context, etc. I have read about the artists, and I still just hate these portraits and think they don’t do the Obamas justice.

    I do appreciate the fact that the painters were the first black artists to be featured in this gallery, and it was wonderful to see Barack and Michelle again.

  44. phaedra says:

    I am biased because I’m friends with the artist, but maybe I can add to the discussion. Last year, over dinner, Amy was telling the story of how she got the commission. Michelle connected with Amy and her work. Amy’s not a realist. Never has been. Her portraits are all symbol. Every visual element signifies something, usually several things. The ashy color, the flatness of the faces: that’s all her style. For me, and again I’m biased, it is a break from the complete snore-fest that is the National Portrait Gallery hall of presidents. There are a thousand painters who can caricature Michelle’s face, and several million literal photographs of Michelle that capture her face, but none of them say what Amy is saying. And that’s what Michelle chose.

  45. Jennifer says:

    I’m just here for the feels. I miss them both so very much. It still hurts.

  46. phaedra says:

    And those who are saying the portrait does not capture Michelle’s ‘persona’ are correct. A persona, especially in politics, is basically nothing but a ‘game face.’ Michelle has got a great one to be sure, but people’s characters go much deeper than that. Again, love it or hate it, but Michelle knew 100 percent what Amy wanted to say, and was an active partner. I was stunned, when I saw the painting, at how accurately Amy captures the woman she saw when she met Michelle: calm, strong, on board for serving her country but not really a fan of being in the public eye, etc.

    • Sandy Eggo says:

      Thanks for your insight and details, phaedra! I really love both portraits, but Michelle’s in particular. A painted portrait does not need to be (and often should not be) a photographicly realistic representation of the subject’s features. The flat shapes and composition of Michelle’s portrait are really striking and modern. Knowing that Michelle chose this artist and actively participated should tell us a lot–excellent point about her politics “game face.”

  47. Lilith says:

    My reaction, initially, was to love POTUS’s picture and be disappointed that Michelle’s did not seem to capture her true beauty and essence.

    But, after the honor of having this couple as POTUS and First Lady for eight years, I know that they are thoughtful and considerate in all that they do. They each obviously chose these artists for a reason.. reasons that go beyond most non-artists/art enthusiasts understanding.

    God I miss them… ❤️

  48. Lala says:

    Since both artist have distinctive styles…which had to be the reasons why they were picked…I know the Obamas’ knew what they would be getting…I LOVE POTUS’ picture…the vibrant color…just SENDS ME…and his face looks like…his face…only fuller…Michelle…well, at first I hated it on sight! That pale palette…IRKS MY VERY SOUL…however, the more I looked at it…the more I saw…”OH…MICHELLE ISN’T LOOKING LIKE KERRY WASHINGTON…THAT’S BABYGIRL’S SASHA’S FACE!!!” And Sasha takes after her Mama…and Malia takes after her Daddy…and yea, they ALL look like Kerry Washington could be a family member…and I’m getting used to the pale palette…though again…MY SOUL CRIES OUT LOOKING AT IT!!! But both portraits….are GROUNDBREAKINGLY DIFFERENT…and so are they…

  49. Elle says:

    Nobody sees Olivia Pope in Michelle’s portrait?

  50. april says:

    I like everything about Michelle’s portrait except for the FACE. It doesn’t even look like her.

  51. LittlefishMom says:

    L O V E

  52. Hehe says:

    President Obama’s is wonderful, The First Ladies does not even look like her. I love the gown in the pic

  53. dawnchild says:

    I love the Obamas so I’ll take any picture of them. HOWEVER, I was wondering what if the artists had been reversed…Wiley doing Michelle’s portrait and Sherald interpreting Barack? Their styles may have been suited to the other painters better. Michelle glowing in technicolor, while Obama is more introspective and muted.
    Also it would have broken another boundary…why match up genders with the artists and the sitters? Although if Michelle had personally chosen Sherald to paint her, then that answers the question of course.

  54. misspiggy says:

    that’s Kerry Washington not Michelle Obama? And i’m fans of both…

  55. Em says:

    Barack’s portrait looks like a children’s book illustration and Michelle’s portrait , more like Kerry Washington than the past FLOTUS (as many have noticed).

  56. Eveil says:

    I love the two official portraits and the fact that they were created by black artists to represent our first black POTUS and FLOTUS just makes me want to bawl like a baby.

  57. Layla Love says:

    Barrack looks great , as always . The Michele Obama portrait looks NOTHING like her face. It’s a complete embarrassment! How could the artist not even come close to getting her face and neck right? It looks like a fake head pasted on a cut out doll body !