Here Are Barack and Michelle Obama’s Official Smithsonian Portraits

Barack and Michelle Obama stepped out together in public on Monday to welcome a new set of portraits to Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian unveiled two painted portraits, which will be added to the museum’s National Portrait Gallery, Varietyreports.

The details about the portraits are about as cool as you’d expect. The former president’s was done by Kehinde Wiley, an artist know for his vibrant paintings of African-American youths on floral backgrounds. Wiley filled President Obama’s background with chrysanthemums (the official flower of his hometown, Chicago), jasmine (for Hawaii), and African blue lilies (for his Kenyan father).

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And the former First Lady’s portrait was painted by Amy Sherald, who was the first woman to ever win the National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. She often paints black skin in grey tones to undercut the idea of assigned “color.” The Smithsonian describes her talent in showing “the inner strength of her subjects through a combination of calm expressions and confrontational poses,” which seems like a perfect fit for Michelle Obama.

As the former president took the stage after his portrait was unveiled, he called it “pretty sharp,” and joked, “I tried to negotiate less gray hair, and Kehinde’s artistic integrity would not allow (him) to do what I asked. I tried to negotiate smaller ears. Struck out on that as well.”

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Despite those sticking issues, he praised Kehinde’s ability to paint portraits that “challenged our ideas of power and privilege.” And the former First Lady highlighted the effect Sherald’s portrait might have on “girls and girls of color.”

“They will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the walls of this great American institution… And I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives because I was one of those girls,” she told the crowd.

For his part, President Obama thanked Sherald for “so spectacularly capturing the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm and hotness of the woman I love.”

If you’re interested in the unveiling, or just desperate for a glimpse of the Obamas, the Smithsonian recorded the event here.

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Lifestyle – Esquire

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