The official portraits of former president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. on February 12th, 2018. This year’s affair was particularly notable, not only because Barack Obama was the first African-American president, but also because he and and his wife both chose African-American painters to portray their likenesses.
Barack Obama’s portrait was rendered by Kehinde Wiley, a New York-based painter known for depicting black men and women against ornate backdrops drawing from the Old Masters and the French Rococo style, applying visual symbols of wealth, prestige and power to his oft overlooked subject matter.
Michelle Obama chose Amy Sherald, a Baltimore artist who primarily paints stylized portraits of black women. Her painting of Obama depicts the former first lady in a dress designed by Michelle Smith of American label Milly, a notable sartorial choice that holds a political message considering Smith’s outspoken opposition of Donald Trump.