Obama portraitists bonded the everyday and the extraordinary

Michelle Obama

The Obamas selected artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald for the paintings, which take their place in the National Portrait Gallery's collection of presidential portraits. When the 44th President of the United States saw the gorgeous greyscale image of his wife, his reaction was absolutely everything.

At a ceremony Monday to unveil portraits of him and former first lady Michelle Obama, the former president said artist Kehinde Wiley cheerfully ignored nearly all of his suggestions.

As in Sherald's previous paintings of African American subjects, Michelle Obama appears poised and powerful as she looks down on the viewer.

Created by Congress in 1962, the National Portrait Gallery began commissioning portraits of outgoing presidents in 1994 with Ronald Sherr's painting of George H.W. Bush. But the flowers that the artist Kehinde Wiley painted are not just beautiful-they signify different aspects of the former president's life. "I tried to negotiate smaller ears and struck out on that as well". However, other amateur art critics found several obscure objections to the Obama Portraits.

It is traditional for the President and First Lady to sit for formal portraits. The portrait artist is Amy Sherald. The former President and First Lady, as well as their chosen artists, all spoke at the event. "I see people who have the vision and the intent to not only be great people, but great thought leaders". The portraits paints a confident and approachable Michelle, in a dress by Michelle Smith's label Milly.

The paintings mark a significant departure from the serious and stodgy presidential likenesses that have been captured in the past.

Barack also joked that Michelle's portrait captures "the hotness of the woman I love".

"As you may have guessed, I don't think there is anybody in my family who has ever had a portrait done, let alone a portrait that will be hanging in the National Gallery - at least as far as I know, Mom", she said. Michelle Obama noted that the couple interviewed the artists before making their selection, and she jokingly apologized for putting them through that stress.

Obama said he was drawn to Wiley's work because the artist challenges conventional views of power and privilege.

"Behold the beauty of Barack and Michelle Obama's official portrait", tweeted @newyorknewart. Thanks to Kehinde and Amy, generations of Americans - and young people from all around the world - will visit the National Portrait Gallery and see this country through a new lens.

"In some ways, our journey involved searching for them and figuring out what that meant", he said.

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