Typically, an official presidential portrait unveiling at National Portrait Gallery might be a ho-hum affair, even with the traditional pomp and circumstance. Not so for former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on Monday.
They are not in an office, sitting at a desk or standing in front of a row of books. The background for Mr. Obama’s painting is not a dark, solid color, but rather a lush bed of bright green leaves, with his chair almost suspended in midair. Mrs. Obama is painted against a bright-blue background, and she is wearing a vibrant dress.
It was a “strikingly different” approach by the two artists, according to the Times’s co-chief art critic Holland Cotter. The artists themselves, both African-American, have a history of tackling race issues — surely adding to the context with each the paintings were completed.
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