Official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama unveiled

Barack Obama’s portrait by Kehinde Wiley, oil on canvas Michelle Obama’s portrait by Amy Sherald, oil on linen

The official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have been revealed. The unveiling took place at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington in the presence of the former American president and first lady.

Wiley has previously painted musicians LL Cool J, Michael Jackson and Notorious B.I.G. In the background of the painter's latest work is jasmine, symbolic of Hawaii, Barack Obama's birthplace; African blue lilies for his father’s Kenyan heritage; and chrysanthemums, which are the official flower of Chicago, where Obama was senator. The portrait, similar to Sherald's likeness of Michelle, has a flatness to it, eschewing naturalism, putting both works at odds with the paintings of former presidents and their wives they hang alongside.

Wiley and Sherald, chosen by the Obamas personally, are the first African-American artists to receive the official commission.

12 February 2018