Last year the former US President Barak Obama and his wife Michelle Obama announced who the artists behind their Smithsonian Portraits were going to be and we were more than thrilled about the news because they couldn’t have made a better choice in selecting the great minds for such an honorary project.
Nigerian-American Portrait Painter, Kehinde Wiley was chosen by Former president Obama to paint a portrait of himself for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. While the former Flotus, Michelle Obama choose Amy Sherald, the artiste behind the famous life size paintings of African Americans.
Obama’s predecessors have preferred to sit for 90-year old portrait artist Everett Raymond Kinstler, who has painted eight US presidents, two of which have been designated “official portraits” by the White House.
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait ritual started with George H. Bush. The Gallery commissions an artist to create a portrait of president and first lady after the completion of their tenure.
The portrait was unveiled at the Smithsonian National Gallery in Washington where the Obamas were surrounded by friends and well wishers including dignitaries like former Vice President Joseph Biden, David Axelrod, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and more.
Barak Obama’s 7ft tall painting shows him sitting on a chair dressed in a black suit and a white shirt, while the background of the painting holds a great significance to the former Presidents life. The background features different types of flowers like; Blue Lilies which reference Obama’s Kenyan father, Chrysanthemums which is the official flower of Obama’s hometown of Chicago, and Jasmine flowers representing where he spent his childhood.
Whilst that of the former Flotus, featured Amy Sherald’s signature gray skin tone. Michelle Obama can be seen wearing a dress by designer Michelle Smith which features a distinctive geometric color pattern. The dress is said to have been inspired by Quilts made by women in a small community in Alabama.