Former President Barack Obama, center, stands on stage during the unveiling of the Obama's official portraits at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Debbie Lord, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Portraits of former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama were unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. on Monday.
The former first couple was there when the portraits were presented by artists Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley.
Barack Obama said he thought the portrait of himself painted by Wiley was “pretty sharp.” The painting showed Barack Obama sitting in a chair with a background of green foliage. The former president has his elbows on his knees and is leaning forward.
The former first lady said she was “a little overwhelmed, to say the least,” at the sight of her portrait.
"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, …” Michelle Obama said. "But all those folks who helped me be here today, they are with us physically and they are with us in spirit."
“I’m also thinking of all the young people, particularly girls and girls of color, who ... will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution,” she said. “I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives because I was one of those girls."
Wiley is known for his works of black subjects, particularly a collection of paintings of young black men “street cast” in and around New York City.
Sherald is a Baltimore-based artist who painted Michelle Obama in a floor-length gown, chin on her hand, looking forward at the viewer. She said at the unveiling that the portrait was meant to convey much more than just one subject.
“You exist in our minds and our hearts in the way that we do because we can see ourselves in you,” she Michelle Obama.
Sherald and Wiley are the first black artists to receive a presidential portrait commission from the museum.
The portraits will be part of the “America’s Presidents” exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. With the exception of the White House, the Gallery is home to the only complete collection of presidential portraits. The two portraits will be on display at the gallery beginning on Tuesday.