Portraits of Obamas Will Be a 1st for National Portrait Gallery

Smithsonian hires black artists to paint presidential portraits for 1st time
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2017 1:59 PM CDT
Portraits of Obamas Will Be a 1st for National Portrait Gallery
Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama smile as they arrive at a community event on the Presidential Center at the South Shore Cultural Center, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, in Chicago.   (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

For the first time ever, the Smithsonian has hired black artists to paint the president and first lady for its National Portrait Gallery, the Wall Street Journal reports. Kehinde Wiley will paint Barack Obama, who requested him specifically. Wiley is known for juxtaposing his subjects—often young black men in hoodies and jeans—and their poses—which are usually only seen in works of European aristocrats. Amy Sherald, who will paint Michelle Obama, paints the skin of her subjects in grays in contrast to the bright colors used for their clothing. Both artists are considered "rising stars" and are more well-known than those that painted the Smithsonian's portraits of President Clinton and the second President Bush. The Obamas' portraits will be unveiled next year. (More Smithsonian stories.)

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