The National Portrait Gallery on Monday unveiled portraits of former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama – to a very mixed reception.
Even though Barack Obama praised Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald “for so spectacularly capturing the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm and hotness of the woman I love,” many critics on social media slammed the rendition of the former first lady.
Their main question: Is that really her?
— Bill Colona (@BillColona) February 12, 2018
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted, “LOVE the new portrait of Michelle Obama” — and attached an explosively colorful painting of abstract art.
LOVE the new portrait of Michelle Obama pic.twitter.com/c4OXHhFOw6
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 12, 2018
For the portrait, the former first lady was painted in “grayscale” – a charcoal color with taupe undertones. She’s seated, with her hair falling around her shoulders, in a bold floor-length dress.
If the first lady was disappointed in the portrait, she was far too gracious to let on.
After her portrait was unveiled, the former first lady said she “was a little overwhelmed, to say the least.”
She added, “I’m also thinking about all the young people, particularly girls and girls of color, who in years ahead will come to this place and they will look up, and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall.”
Amy Sherald, the first-prize winner of the Portrait Gallery’s 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, beat out 2,500 other artists to paint Michelle Obama.
“I paint American people, and I tell American stories through the paintings I create,” Sherald said. “Once my paintings are complete, the model no longer lives in the painting as themselves. I see something bigger, more symbolic, an archetype.”
While most agreed the image was striking, Twitter went to war over whether it looked anything like Michelle Obama. The verdict varied widely, from positive responses to confused reactions to concern that the portrait did not live up to the subject.
Take a look:
Tried to make Michael look feminine
— Brens1972 (@Brens19722) February 12, 2018
— 🇺🇸Firing Squads Only🇺🇸 (@Carroll_322) February 12, 2018
Wow, what a pleasant surprise!
It doesn’t look like her at all!!👍🏻
— John tippette (@john_tippette) February 12, 2018
An attempt to paint a incredibly unattractive person in an attractive way. Pathetic but entertaining.
— AkAn0n (@rayzik7) February 12, 2018
That does not look like Michelle.
— America is back! (@nancylee2016) February 12, 2018
The painting is missing her/his
5 o'clock shadow
— Marilynn Hendricks (@princessbojo50) February 12, 2018
she looks pissed off in the portrait–must be mad about losing taxpayer funded stuff
— Fred L (@FLPreach) February 12, 2018
Omg and I thought no one could make her uglier!!
— Barbara Stephens (@Barbiemacs3) February 12, 2018
Bah ha ha ha ha. What a horrible painting. Get your money back on that one. I admit the person in the picture looks a lot better than Michael, I mean Mitchell, I mean Michele
— John Higdon (@JohnHig37725411) February 12, 2018
Here is the portrait: