National Portrait Gallery unveils Obama portraits:
Artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald are behind the Mr Obama’s portrait, and they’re the first black artists ever commissioned to paint official presidential portraits for the Smithsonian.
And while there’s been praise for Mr Obama’s portrait, there’s been a mixed reaction to the Obama’s portrait, painted by Sherald
The most common complaint? It doesn’t look like Michelle Obama.
Here’s New York Times art critic Holland Cotter, who said he was disappointed that the focus of Michelle Obama portrait appeared to be her dress:
“I was anticipating —hoping for — a bolder, more incisive image of the strong-voiced person I imagine this former first lady to be,” Cotter said in his review.”
Obama’s portrait doesn’t have to be photorealistic
At least according to Mr Ayres, who says photorealism doesn’t necessarily make for a good portrait, but capturing the ‘spirit’ of the subject is absolutely crucial.
“One feels that if there were actually a man walking around who looked exactly like that he would look very, very odd,” Mr Ayres said.
“But still you have that incredible sense of this grandeur of the King from that portrait.”
He said that Obama’s portrait artist’s role was to deliver their interpretation of the subject.
“They (artists) experience, they take in, they process and then with their artistic genius out the other side comes for instance, a Picasso version of Michelle Obama,” Mr Ayres said.
After the unveilings, some Twitter users noted that Michelle Obama’s portrait didn’t look a lot like her. Others noticed the grayness of her skin. Sherald’s trademark is using gray skin tones as a way of challenging the concept of color as defining race.
Wiley’s painting will be permanently installed in the Portrait Gallery’s acclaimed “America’s Presidents” exhibition. Sherald’s painting will be on view in the museum’s “Recent Acquisitions” corridor through early November. Public hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Simmie Knox, whose paintings of Bill and Hillary Clinton hang in the White House, was the first African-American artist commissioned to create an official presidential portrait.