The National Portrait Gallery on Monday unveiled portraits of former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, to a very mixed reception on social media.
Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald painted the official portrait for former first lady Michelle Obama and it was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery on Monday morning.
However, reactions to the portrait on Twitter were mostly critical.
While many Twitter users deemed the portrait "elegant," others thought that the portrait did not look anything like the former first lady of the United States.
Michelle is shown to be seated with her hair covering her shoulders, donning a full-length dress resembling paintings made by Piet Mondrian.
According to Sherald, the quilts were made by a black community in Alabama.
Sherald worked her classic "grayscale" magic on Michelle's portrait, applying a charcoal overcoat with taupe undertones. It does the job of expounding her race without thwarting its relevance.
Th gallery also unveiled a portrait of former President Barack Obama, which has been done by artist Kehinde Wiley.
New York Times art critic Holland Cotter praised the portrait by saying that it “overemphasizes an element of couturial spectacle, but also projects a rock-solid cool.”
The Washington Post’s Philip Kennicott praised the "cultural significance" of both portraits.
Former President Obama praised the Baltimore-based artist who rendered his wife's portrait "for so spectacularly capturing the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm and hotness of the woman I love.”
Having said that, many critics on social media slammed the artist's version of Michelle.
The verdict on the portrait varied from positive reactions to confused responses to conclusions that the portrait did not appropriately do justice to the subject. While most agreed that the artwork was stunning, there ensued a war on Twitter over whether it looked anything close to Michelle.
“Ugh…does not do a powerful, beautiful woman justice,” one user wrote.
Ugh...does not do a powerful, beautiful woman justice— OuisieM (@OuisieM) February 12, 2018
On Monday, Sherald's painting along with the portrait of Obama created by artist Kehinde Wiley of New York were revealed together.
The famed painter acknowledged the fact that many viewers would be critical of her work but personally she believes that the portrait represents an "ideal her."
She also said that she was stunned by the former first lady's photographs in her resemblance with Malia Obama. “She had a very youthful look in the photographs,” she said. “I tried to create an ideal her.”
However, main question still stood strong: Is that really Michelle Obama?
“Michelle Obama is an elegant lady and the portrait looks nice. But clearly, the artist drew someone else,” Dr. Eugene Gu, a health care columnist for The Hill, tweeted.
Michelle Obama is an elegant lady and the portrait looks nice. But clearly, the artist drew someone else. pic.twitter.com/659jRDHY33— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) February 12, 2018
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted, “LOVE the new portrait of Michelle Obama” -- and attached an explosively colorful painting of abstract art.
LOVE the new portrait of Michelle Obama pic.twitter.com/c4OXHhFOw6— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 12, 2018
However, even if the portrait disappointed the former first lady, she was way too courteous to undermine the same.
After the intricate artwork was revealed, Michelle said that she “was a little overwhelmed, to say the least.”
She added, “I’m also thinking about all the young people, particularly girls and girls of color, who in years ahead will come to this place and they will look up, and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall.”
Sherald landed the gig to paint Michelle after beating 2500 artists to win the Portrait Gallery’s 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.
“I paint American people, and I tell American stories through the paintings I create,” Sherald said. “Once my paintings are complete, the model no longer lives in the painting as themselves. I see something bigger, more symbolic, an archetype.”
Michelle further described Sherald “as a woman of extraordinary talent. It’s thrilling to see her get the recognition she deserves.”
On the other hand, Obama's portrait was a huge hit among well wishers as well as critics who said that the work was spot on in portraying the former president's persona. The painting by Wiley is a seven-foot tall portrait sitting in a field of flowers, including chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago; jasmine, a tribute to Obama’s childhood in Hawaii; and African blue lilies to symbolize Obama’s late father who was from Kenya.
The unveiling ceremony and subsequent presentation was attended by the Obamas, both the artists, National Portrait Gallery director Kim Sajet and David J. Skorton, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
Both the masterpieces were revealed at the gallery which is a part of the Smithsonian group of museums. The said gallery is known to possess a complete collection of presidential portraits made until now.
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