Kehinde Wiley's Official Portrait of Barack Obama Has Been Revealed
The National Portrait Gallery unveiled portraits—by two black artists—of the former president and first lady Michelle Obama today.
The National Portrait Gallery unveiled the official portraits of former president of the United States Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama in Washington, D.C. today.
This unveiling is historic, to say the least, because the two artists who were commissioned for this honor—Amy Sherald and Nigerian-American artist Kehinde Wiley—are the first black artists to paint official portraits of the first family.
"Working with Kehinde was a great joy, he and his team made it easy," Obama says. "Kehinde, in the tradition of a lot of great artists, actually cared to hear how I thought about it—before doing exactly what he intended to do."
"What we did find is that we had certain things in common. Both of us had American mothers who raised us with extraordinary love and support," Obama notes. "Both of us had African fathers who had been absent from our lives and in some ways our journeys involved searching for them and figuring out what that meant."
Wiley also notes on why he chose to feature flowers that connect with Chicago, Kenya and Hawaii in the portrait, saying:
"When you look at that painting...there's also botanicals that are going on there that nod to his personal story—in a very symbolic way what I'm doing is charting his path on earth through those plants. There's a fight going on between he and the foreground—who gets to be the star of the show? The story? Or the man who inhabits that story?"
Watch Michelle Obama also touch on the impact her portrait will have on young girls of color:
The reactions to the portraits on social media all point to awe—they are indeed stunning.