What do you think of the official portraits of former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama that have just been unveiled? If you haven’t seen them yet, take a little time to check them out and think about them, and then we’ll talk.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/12/politics/obama-portrait-unveiling/index.html

The Obamas interviewed more than two dozen artists for the distinction of painting their portraits. (Michelle says this is the first portrait she’s ever sat for.) The paintings will be displayed at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, but not side by side; the former President’s portrait will hang, appropriately, in the hall of presidents, while Michelle’s will hang in another gallery. Both paintings are stunningly different from typical “power portraits,” and, considering that President Obama’s portrait will be viewed in the context of those of other Presidents, that incongruence will be much more obvious in his case than in hers.


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Considering that President Obama’s artist, Kehinde Wiley, is an African-American noted for making a statement about power by painting his black subjects in the high-blown style of the Old Masters, this painting seems, well, a little strange. Here, the artist has taken the opposite tack. It’s ironic that in a situation in which a black person in real life has reached the absolute highest level of power attainable by anyone of any race, this artist conveys not a hint of it. Obama is sitting on a “throne” of sorts (a low, carved chair), alone against a blanket of brilliant green ivy –- the purpose of which is “charting his path on Earth,” according to the artist –- that completely fills the canvas, behind him and under his feet. The ivy is studded here and there with pops of colorful and symbolic flowers. It certainly incorporates the President’s Hawaiian roots; he could be wearing a crown of plumeria blossoms in this picture and it wouldn’t seem out of place with his business-casual clothes. Maybe it’s casual Friday, and the office is having a tiki party.

As for the pose and grim expression, I’ll leave it to Internet trolls to create the memes we all know are coming. I feel like staying above that today. (Well, not really, but I’m going to restrain myself.)

Why does the President look so grim? I’d like to think it’s because of Neil Gorsuch being on the Supreme Court or his certainty that the scale of Hillary’s lawbreaking and the Justice Department’s protection of her –-- and, by extension, him –- will eventually see the light of day. When it does, that daylight will be just as bright as the sun that shines on his visage in this beautifully-executed but odd portrait of him.


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Now, a word about Michelle’s portrait. This is a striking work of art, created by Amy Sherald of Baltimore. Like Wiley, she’s an African artist dedicated to highlighting themes of social justice; that’s one reason she typically de-emphasizes skin tones by painting them in gray, as she has done here. The look is flat and mural-like. Against a background of sky blue, Michelle poses thoughtfully in a dramatic white full-skirted dress enhanced with graphic designs. Not formal-looking, but sophisticated.

One tiny quibble, and maybe it’s just me: Objectively, I suppose it’s a good facial likeness, but if I saw the painting and hadn’t been told it was her, I might not immediately realize that. I might just pass by as one sometimes does with an acquaintance on the street, if that acquaintance looks like a lot of other people. Maybe seeing her portrait up-close-and-in-person, the face would appear less generic. We should all get to the Smithsonian Picture Gallery and have a look at this and other history-making works.

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Comments 1-50 of 111

  • Sandy Taylor

    03/01/2018 04:50 AM

    The portraits are both ridiculous. I had to look long and hard at Michelle's to realize it was supposed to portray her. In fact, if I hadn't seen her standing below it, I would've remained clueless as to its intended likeness. I really don't care about that, though. It's the former president's himself whose is the true embarrassment. It is undignified. If there were no plans to place it alongside all of the other past presidents, it would be hilarious. Unfortunately, it will hang in what should be hallowed halls. It makes me cringe.

  • AG

    02/19/2018 10:34 PM

    Kehinde Wiley, the artist who painted former President Barack Obama's official portrait, also produced a pair of paintings depicting black women decapitating white women. Even democratically ran snopes has this down as true.

  • Elizabeth Sloas

    02/19/2018 08:32 PM

    oiateI thought the portrait of Barack Obama didn't seem to fit in as a presidential portrait and Michele Obama's portrait was different then some of her better photos which I think would have been more appropriate.

  • Art Rittenhouse

    02/19/2018 07:05 PM

    Maybe they should have gotten help from some of the 120 attendants of Michelle's, they sure helped with the choice of her clothes!

  • Linda Johnson

    02/19/2018 03:45 AM

    Thank you for your article. The portraits of Barack and Michelle are sad...so sad. They should have been the focus of their portraits, not ivy or a dress. The artists really didn't paint a good likeness of either one of them. I find it hard to believe that these portraits will hang in the Smithsonian Institute. I wouldn't want one in my house.

  • Michael Johnson

    02/18/2018 01:21 AM

    They will look out of place when hung in the Smithsonian. Out of context, thank you for your daughter, I think she is doing one great job and I do not think many could match her.

  • Nancy shannon

    02/16/2018 10:05 PM

    Both pictures look like crap

  • Barbara Marvel

    02/16/2018 09:13 AM

    This is in reference to the hateful things liberals say and wish to happen to the Trump family : see something, say something can extend to those individuals and maybe a sheriffs cruiser can be seen in their driveway asking them further questions about intent. ( recent argument about how to avoid another school shooting) Words still mean things.

  • Jackie Necaise

    02/15/2018 11:34 PM

    The Obama portraits are like everything else they have done, a slap in the face to America! They really show the lack of class this man and woMAN possess!

  • Helen Feldman

    02/15/2018 04:41 PM

    I learned this morning from Rush that Obama's portrait was a group effort, not done by one artist. The painter said that he did not claim to have done all the work by himself. He must have learned that from the "mob boss" himself.

  • Kevin Schwinkendorf

    02/15/2018 04:40 PM

    Here is another "take" on Barrack Obama's portrait. Maybe all the green leaves labels him as the "Green President" - you know, the POTUS who helped make so much progress in getting America to invest so much money in "Green Energy" (wind power and solar panels). Of course, without all the federal subsidies, wind and solar are very much more expensive than coal/gas/nuclear (like by a factor of 5). But hey, that's okay, because its so important for liberal leftists to "feel good about themselves."

  • Roland Sneed

    02/15/2018 11:19 AM

    When I first saw the portraits I noticed that Obama's hands looked larger than normal and Mrs. Obama did not look like her at all. I thought the portraits were pitiful.

  • Leona Lucas

    02/15/2018 11:09 AM

    These portraits are certainly different. His portrait doesn't need the background of Kudzu. I think it destroys the seriousness of a portrait that will be hung along with previous presidents. Also Michelle's portrait doesn't even look like her and isn't even the type of portrait to be hung with other First Ladies. Her portrait is minimized by the detail given to her dress.

  • Dick Lardinois

    02/15/2018 05:10 AM

    Well Mike, No doubt the Obama's wanted their portraits to be different, to stand out, and that they do !.. However, they lack the 'class' and a subtle quality present in the company of the other portraits.

  • Patricia Gabriel

    02/15/2018 02:39 AM

    The Obama picture overloads my eyes with the greenery background, it's just too much. I wish he had kept it more in tune with a professional portrait that is due the President of the USA. Michelle's dress is nice but her skin looks gray/green and sick, I don't understand why the artist would change her skin color like that. I didn't think it looked as much like her as it should.

  • Barbara Dodge

    02/15/2018 02:11 AM

    I agree with you, Mike. Michelle's portrait is HUGELY flattering!! I would never know it was she. Obama's portrait is certainly striking. It will standout as his administration did----strange.

    I remember a committee I served on to choose a portrait for you as governor of Arkansas. Your portrait is one to be proud of throughout years to come.

  • Rick Jones

    02/15/2018 01:14 AM

    I find it to be a vile painting to be hung with our other Presidents. Seems to be a comment on how he feels about America & the American people. Have to wonder if, the puppet master Soros, ordered it to be done ?

  • Bonnie Donita Adkins

    02/15/2018 01:07 AM

    As tacky as I would expect of these two!!!

  • Janice Schaefer

    02/15/2018 12:43 AM

    Obviously the Obama's think these portraits make a statement; possibly their apparent need to be seen as untraditional or cutting edge. But time has a way of getting in the way and whatever "statement" these people think they are making may become lost. Future viewers of these portraits could very well be confused by what they see. Posterity may get an impression of Mr. and Mrs. Obama they do not intend to make. I watched the unveiling of their portraits on TV and while Mr. Obama seemed pleased with himself - smug, my immediate sense as I watched Mrs. Obama's reaction was that she was not pleased. There was something in her body language that reeked of disappointment. These are two very unusual people. I don't believe history will be kind to their legacy and these portraits won't do them any favors either. Be careful for what you wish ....

  • Kathy Proctor

    02/14/2018 11:48 PM

    I had to laugh at Obama's portrait. He looks like he and his chair have been superimposed onto a picture of greenery...like he's "floating" and not really there---kind of a cartoon effect. In other words, he looked totally out of place. If the point was for him to completely stand out among the portraits of other presidents, then that was accomplished! My husband agreed, and we think the portrait of Michelle doesn't look like her at all. She, too, is totally out of place as a first lady in this portrait---more like she is trying to pose as a model rather than a dignitary. Thank goodness the two portraits will not be hung together, as they do not complement each other (much less the subjects) at all!!! As an aside, I think it was interesting that they each picked a negro artist...no racism or prejudice from the Obamas there.

  • Anita David

    02/14/2018 11:08 PM

    You were carefully worded but let's just face it Mike, both portraits were horrible & dismal on so many levels - unpresidential, unmajestic, un-like the sitter in Michael's, sorry Michele's case, lacking sophistication, grandeur befitting both their so-called postions but again, I think, that is just a reflection on both subjects of both portraits. I'm not holding back. They were an unmitigated travesty & blight on American historical annals - God help this country after those two.

  • Debbie Graham

    02/14/2018 10:56 PM

    These portraits are awful!!! Michelle does not look like herself...her skin tone is too gray. Obama looks
    ridiculous, like he is sitting in a chair surrounded by poison ivy!!!! Gad...these painters cannot paint. ( yes I meant to write Gad) ....I would be horrified and ask for a redo.....

  • Carolyn Prater

    02/14/2018 09:51 PM

    At first I thought both portraits were a ridiculous joke. But after looking at all of the facts and the 'hidden' meanings in both, I can only conclude that this is proof that that guy hated whites and all of America too. I believe his object was to topple this country, and laugh on his way out. He proudly displays his Muslim wedding band in the portrait. I also think he is delusional in thinking that he will somehow regain control of America. And I'll venture that if he is not legally stopped, he will make a grand attempt to do so. The people have been begging Congress to do their job. They have failed us in many ways, especially on the abortion issue. Because of this unrepentance, we will see great suffering.

  • Sheila Williams

    02/14/2018 09:44 PM

    These cartoon-ish portraits, and the fact they will be on display forever to mark the failure of a presidency, tickles my funny bone. Obama appears to be losing battle with out of control poison ivy. The artist seemed to make a mistake on pinkie placement, and instead of "fixing" it, makes it appear like Obama has an extra one tucked under. And, since the artist has a fascination with sperm, it appears he has placed one on Obama's temple. Although I have no plans to actually view either one in person, I hope they can find an out of the way place to display it. Possibly in one of the restrooms.

  • Linda Radosevich

    02/14/2018 08:49 PM

    Governor, you make me laugh! My mom always used to say something was "interesting" because she was too polite to say it stunk! President Obama's likeness is good, Michelle's...not so much.

  • Rebecca Rosak

    02/14/2018 08:40 PM

    Michelle is a Tranny whose real name is Michael. They have deceived most of the world and everyone believes the Lie! The portraits are disgusting because they are disgusting.

  • Sue Breslin

    02/14/2018 07:42 PM

    The paintings accurately display their 'self-absorb" opinion of themselves just as they governed this country. It was ALWAYS about them and NOT the American people. Thank goodness their reign of lies and deceit is over. Actually, future showings of these two clowns will show them for exactly what they were.

  • Betty

    02/14/2018 06:12 PM

    I don't think I will be viewing their portraits, I'm trying hard to forget both of them & what they have done to divide this nation. It's time for both of them to just move on!

  • Andrea Wilson

    02/14/2018 06:04 PM

    Obama just has to be different from everybody for his ego. You can barely make him out in the greenery. I immediately thought of his pot smoking days!!! Michelle, she has been made to look much younger. Both artists fed Obama and MIchelle's egos. I don't like either one

  • Morris Steen

    02/14/2018 05:55 PM

    I never felt any empathy for Michelle, considering her negative comments about America and the tattered image of the First Lady she left in the White House until I saw her trying to comment about her portrait. She looked near tears. I did feel a little sad for her that at that moment. She was so lost for words she even had to call out to her mother for support. My goodness! I felt her heartfelt disappointment and I was disappointed for her.

  • Virginia Walcott

    02/14/2018 05:23 PM

    Examine the portrait closely. His left thumb is beside the little finger. Unless he hid this deformity from us, it's suppose to be beside the index finger. I really believe this is some kind of sick joke. Come to think of it, his 8 year residency was a sick joke. All crimes lead back to HIM & CROOKED, and funded by Soros. I pray for the day these three are held accountable.

  • Jennifer Upchurch

    02/14/2018 05:07 PM

    I feel really bad of the Obama's they showed incredibly poor taste in their selection of artist. Obama's portrait lack the power and authority of a presidential portrait and Michelle's is simply horrible.

  • Janis A Burton

    02/14/2018 04:59 PM

    I think they are both tacky 'portraits' if they can even be called that.

  • Jackie Britton

    02/14/2018 04:55 PM

    Why does Obama have 6 fingers on his right hand? And does he have a bug on his face or is that just sloppy PhotoShopping? The background is totally WEIRD! I hope they don't hang this with the other presidential portraits! I think they should send it to Guantanomo with Obama to decorate his cell, next to Hillary's.

  • Jane Tilton

    02/14/2018 04:37 PM

    I recently read an article about the artist who did Obama's portrait. According to him, he has "assistants" in China helping him with his work. I think that is one reason that the background is so flat--and the painting looks as if someone had simply superimposed a photo of Obama on top of the background. Most of my artist friends are horrified at its poor quality. The portrait of Mrs. Obama is much better, but, again, I'm not sure I would have recognized her.

  • Patrick

    02/14/2018 04:34 PM

    Look at his hand it looks like he has a sixth finger on it . I would call the painting something that looks like a high school artist done but what bothers me more is the artist other works of black women holding a severed head of white persons.

  • Debbie Howard

    02/14/2018 04:28 PM

    I agree completely! It doesn’t look like her!!

  • Alan Johns

    02/14/2018 04:19 PM

    I have been told that those who study body language suggest that the arms-crossed pose signals "I'm better than you. You may be talking, and I'm nodding my head, but I haven't heard a word you are saying." The aloof, glued-to-the-mirror-admiring-myself-while-the-world-grows-up-around-me look was captured perfectly by the artist. The patchwork desaturated rainbow-checker dress may be historically-appropriate for Michael, although mono-stripes would better suit shim. (BTW, anyone else notice that captcha cannot properly identify signs, cars, buses, and roads?)

  • Esther Sims

    02/14/2018 04:16 PM

    Strange, but so was their legacy. He ruined this blessed nation. I personally think he is a Communist. I doubt we will ever regain what we had before he came into office. He is sneaky. He and Hillary thought they could get away with anything. I pray to God that the truth will all come out about their corruption. Sorry, but I am so upset at what they have been doing and are still doing to President Trump.

    I am also sick of all these females coming out. Most of the time they ask for it in the way they dress, and that includes Fox News.

  • Irene Single

    02/14/2018 04:09 PM

    In answer to your question about the portraits of President and Mrs. Obama, I have to say I am no artist, however I truly did not care for either one. I agree Pres. Obama looks too solemn and I do not think it appropriate for a President to be surrounded by flora but it should look more distinguished. The one of Mrs. Obama truly does not even look like her and I hope our tax dollars did not pay for these poor portraits. I agree that if they like them, that counts for something, I guess.

  • Victoria M. Perez

    02/14/2018 04:01 PM

    Just the fact Michelle chose the artist that she did and my quess, knowing that it would become a statement tells all. It would have been great to have seen a realistic portrait of her. This is flat looking, does not look like her, and the 'hidden' messages will have little or less meaning to viewers in the future.

  • Mike Smith

    02/14/2018 02:40 PM

    no matter what, you can't hide the despicableness of each one. and now that we know barack is a traitor, liar, cheat and muslime, it is even more reprehensible. neither can be given any honor because they spent 8 years in dishonorable behavior.

  • Bear McGinnis

    02/14/2018 01:58 PM

    Dear Mr Governor, I have viewed the Obama's official portraits several times on TV and internet without a favorable impression. Even though I am no fan of these two, I would have preferred to see their official portraits created in the traditional manner. My preference is with regard to the office of President more than the person. For the good of the nation, I would see their portraits interpreted in a more reserved and dignified manner.

  • Ruth Garcia

    02/14/2018 01:51 PM

    He looks grim. She looks angry. I also don't think it looks like her. Very unflattering

  • Robert Mize

    02/14/2018 01:17 PM

    First, I will comment on the president's portrait. I think his hands were the first think that jumped out at me. Does it look to everyone else too that the artist drew a thumb on the wrong side of the left and tucked it under his hand? His hands look so dis-proportioned. I guess everyone to their own liking but that green ivy behind him just looks so out of place to me....I am visualizing this portrait hanging with all the other Presidents and I think it is going to stand out like a sore thumb (maybe that is why the thumb is hiding on the wrong side?).

  • vincent accardi

    02/14/2018 01:14 PM

    They should have painted Obama behind the bushes, stealth, just like his courses of action as the president. More like a where's Waldo theme.

  • Edythe Stewart

    02/14/2018 01:07 PM

    Even though I didn't care for the things the Obama's put into power when they were in office...I still respect the office. Lets face it Michelle Obama is an attractive lady and in my opinion that portrait does not do her justice. And the official portrait of Pres. Obama doesn't seem to fit in style with the former presidents portraits. I understand them wanting to have someone of their own race do the portraits, so perhaps that will give them some satisfaction as deep in my heart, I think they are both disappointed in the results.

  • Mike Smith

    02/14/2018 12:54 PM

    I hadn't realized that was the actual portrait. I'd seen it online but thought someone was trying to belittle him. The one of Michelle portrays her anger fairly well, but not her eyes. She does have pretty eyes, but history won't remember that now. How very unfortunate for them both.

  • Janet Pelosi

    02/14/2018 12:35 PM

    I think they are awful - I don't know how anyone could think they are beautiful portraits. They are both attractive people but the portraits don't show that.

  • John Gordon

    02/14/2018 12:29 PM

    Brings it all into perspective. Visit: https://www.americanthinker.com/images/bucket/2018-02/204199_5_.png