The official portraits of former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama were unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery Monday, but the reactions to the historic portraits were mixed – at best.
The Obamas’ portraits were a historic first for the equally historic former first couple as both portraits were painted by African-American artists. Regardless of how momentous the occasion was, however, people on social media had a lot to say about the portraits and much of it was negative – especially regarding Mrs. Obama’s portrait.
The portraits were by no means traditional, which wasn’t surprising, considering the first couple wasn’t known to rigidly follow tradition. The former president’s portrait, painted by artist Kehinde Wiley, was traditional in the way he was portrayed, with a realistic painting of him sitting in a chair; however, what was less traditional was the backdrop of leaves and flowers that offset his likeness, but it showcased Wiley’s unique style.
The former first lady’s portrait was even less traditional for a first lady portrait as it wasn’t a realistic rendering of Mrs. Obama and was more in line with the artist, Amy Sherald’s, signature style. However, people’s most significant issue with Mrs. Obama’s portrait was that they didn’t think it even looked like the first lady.
While a lot of the reactions to Mrs. Obama’s portrait were negative, many still lauded her unique portrait.
Although people seemed to think former President Obama’s portrait captured his likeness, that didn’t stop people from using the leafy background to instantly turn it into hilarious memes.