The official portraits of former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were unveiled Monday at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
As might be expected, both generated plenty of chatter online.
Those who are curious about the artists behind them can see more of their works, and perhaps more of the inspiration behind the official portraits, at area museums.
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The former President’s likeness was painted by Kehinde Wiley, who is known for portraying African-Americans in the style of old Dutch Master painters, often with elaborate colorful patterns in the background. This one is no exception, showing the subject before a leafy backdrop of green leaves punctuated with brightly colored flowers.
Several Wiley paintings are on long-term display at Raleigh’s North Carolina Museum of Art. One titled “Judith and Holofernes” was added to the permanent collection in 2012, which the 2005 painting “Mrs. Hale as ‘Euphrosyne’” is on loan. Both can be found in the West Building’s Modern & Contemporary galleries.
Michelle Obama, meanwhile, was painted in shades of blue by Baltimore artist Amy Sherald, who will have a painting on display this summer at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Ackland Art Museum.
Sherald was one of the winners of the Smithsonian’s 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Her winning painting, “Miss Everything (Unsupressed Deliverance),” is part of the “The Outwin: American Portraiture Today,” opening at the Ackland June 1 and showing until Aug. 26.
This isn’t the first time Sherald’s work has been in the Triangle. “The Magical Real-ism of Amy Sherald” was shown in the Stone Center’s gallery in 2011. Another piece hung at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke in 2016 as part of an exhibit, “Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art.”
The Nasher owns works by both artists: two by Wiley and one by Sherald. All were gifts to the museum.
They’ll be on view this fall as part of an exhibition of contemporary art, which Nasher chief curator Trevor Schoonmaker is organizing.