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Old 02-13-2018, 07:47 AM
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Obama portraits


Yesterday, two portraits of the Obamas were unveiled. They are not the White House portraits, but they are the portraits that will sit in the National Portrait Gallery in DC (an outstanding museum, by the way).

http://www.vulture.com/2018/02/the-o...-occasion.html

Compare it to others:
https://www.si.edu/spotlight/presidential-portraits

Reactions?

A few thoughts: the Barack Obama painting is stunning. Jarring, really, in this context. And I think it is amazing. Aside from being a very good representation of him, the background is just chock full of meaning and importance. Wow.

The Michelle Obama: not quite as high marks, as I just don’t think it looks like her.
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:00 AM
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I'm by no means an art critic, but I thought they were both refreshing in that they aren't your typical formal portraits. I thought his was the better of the two, I just didn't care for her arrangement as much as I did his. Maybe the art critics will rate them differently but that's my two cents.
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:07 AM
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Mr Obama is fine and refreshing. Mrs Obama looks like someone painted a lady in question using a half-remembered description from 25 years ago.
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:11 AM
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Obama’s is of HIM. Really quite amazing, and the background will make it leap out that much more in the Hall of Otherwise White Guys. Love it - and the technical quality of the painting is visible even on bad webpages - it looks fit for such a man, and his face captures that humanity.

Michelle’s is of her as an Icon. The dress is featured and her head is a little monument on top of it. It is fine, but more of a cool poster than *the* portrait. I would’ve much preferred something that captured her power and grace in an open-faced, closer up, look-at-the-viewer sort of way. It would be so much more illustrative of her forthright character and integrity. IMHO.
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:12 AM
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My first thought: What's he doing sitting by the outfield wall in Wrigley Field? I thought he was a White Sox fan.
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:12 AM
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I think Barack's portrait has way too much background, and it's too busy. It distracts away from the man himself. And really, hyacinth blossoms growing out of ivy?

Looking at the historical ones, I've got to say that I love the clay Gerald Ford.
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:14 AM
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Oh, and just a pre-emptive reminder: This is Cafe Society, and we're talking about the art. It's not about politics.
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:29 AM
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I’m not a fan. The picture of the woman I like well enough. I just never would have guessed it was supposed to be a picture of Michelle Obama if you didn’t tell me.

The president’s picture is ok. He is done well and I get that the background is the artists thing. I just think it’s way too busy. At least he’s not holding a severed head.
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:37 AM
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Agreed that Michelle looks like some other attractive woman who is not Michelle Obama.

Barrack Obama's looks good but also agree that I spend more time distracted at the background then actually seeing the portrait.

Ford as a friend clay golem cracks me up and I like stick-figure sculpture Bush and abstract Kennedy. I'm a bit of a traditionalist so, if I had my druthers, we'd have a classic oils portrait of Obama as well but it's nothing that I'll think about two days from now.
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:48 AM
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I guess I like the more traditional style in this context - but as for President Obama's - I like that he stands out from all the noise. I think that the painting promotes that outside of whatever other noise was going on around him - he stood out from it and you knew it. I agree at first glance I thought it was too busy - but think of how life as a president must feel. (and he might enjoy sitting in a field of flowers/dreams now and then as well).

as for Michelle's - I think it represents her as an icon - but this one doesn't quite help me appreciate her strengths as much as I hoped it could.
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:48 AM
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I actually like the Michelle portrait better. To me, it looks more like a much younger Michelle, but I just like it, as a painting, even if it's not a clear rendering of her now. Did anyone berate Picasso for his portraits? (Well, yeah, some people did, but I think you know what I'm getting at).

Barack, though, just looks bored. Not pensive, or happy or forward looking. Just bored, and fading into a background of vines.
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:51 AM
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I was going to start a thread about the Obama portraits too, Ravenman, but I found yours when I checked to see if anyone had beat me to it.

It always takes me awhile to see what I really think about something like this. But my first impressions:

1) I'm glad they decided to do something non-standard. IMHO, that puts them way ahead of the game right there.

I'm kinda reminded of a thing that was going around recently with the supposedly ugliest buildings in each state. More than half of them were buildings that were trying to do something more interesting than your standard concrete-steel-glass box, and IMHO almost all the buildings in question were more worth looking at than a standard office building would have been. If you don't try something new, then everything's the same old same old.

2) I like Michelle's portrait. Really quite striking.

3) Barack's portrait is...interesting. The artist's obviously trying to do something with Barack and that wall of greenery, but I'm not making sense of it just yet.

I think the artist did a good job with his face.

The way he's got his hands is weird, at least to me. I don't know that I've ever rested my hands like that in my life. That's probably an annoying detail that I should just get past.

Last edited by RTFirefly; 02-13-2018 at 08:51 AM.
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:53 AM
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The Guardian's art critic has strong words to say - he loves the Michelle Obama painting - 'Sherald’s painting is remarkable – a new birth for the portrait, even.'
'The pose Michelle adopts is anything but formal or offputting. She sits introspectively, as if sharing a secret. She looks vulnerable and exposed, a human being without pompous armour. The soft, poetic tones of Sherald’s painting are disarming and completely unexpected in a formal portrait.'

https://www.theguardian.com/artandde...erald-michelle

As for me - I liked his and not hers.

MiM
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Old 02-13-2018, 09:08 AM
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Not big into art, but like most here I like his a bit better; it captures his 'soul' (for lack of a better term) and I focus on him and his eyes almost immediately rather than the background. Michelle's is good art, but it doesn't seem to capture her 'vibrancy' her enjoyment of life that one has seen throughout.

Still, better than another stuffy portrait in the hall.
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Old 02-13-2018, 09:16 AM
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Yeah, the first thing I thought of was Wrigley Field too. It's a bit much, and a poke in the eye to Sox fans. And I say that as a Cub fan.
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Old 02-13-2018, 09:26 AM
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I suppose that, unlike ye olden days where a painting was all you got, we have umpteen bajillion photos of the president and spouse and so the portraits can afford to be more artsy. Even if Michelle's doesn't make me say "Yup, that's Mrs Obama", it's not as though her image will be lost to time in the foreseeable future.
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Old 02-13-2018, 09:38 AM
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I think they are both awful for different reasons.

His is too busy and I don't like those flowers, either. There are other ways to pay homage to Obama's background. The pose is undignified and the background is decidedly not masculine. Some people may not like the so-called "stuffy" portraits of past Presidents, but I think a more casual & relaxed feel can be captured with looser brushstrokes. His portrait is painted tight and the colors are just horrendous and loud.

Hers is fine as far as the pose, the artist fancies herself some kind of modern-day Klimt with that composition I guess, but her skin? There's no overlooking that, and I don't care what the rest if this artist's work looks like. She looks like a corpse. A corpse that doesn't look like Michelle Obama.

If the Obamas are pleased with them, goody goody for them, but they have shit taste in art.
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Old 02-13-2018, 09:43 AM
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Interesting! I like Michelle's as a work of art, but frankly, someone could have done better.

I love Obama's portrait, lovely work. But looking at it, my first impression was: Twin Peaks. Major Briggs in The White Lodge. (google it, 'images' - it comes right up. Major Briggs in a half hidden gothic chair in a tangle of vegetation.)

Last edited by salinqmind; 02-13-2018 at 09:45 AM.
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Old 02-13-2018, 09:51 AM
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I think a loose impressionistic style like this is very nice for Portrait Gallery paintings:

http://209.114.199.192/wordpress/wp-...aganSketch.jpg
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:02 AM
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I like both of them. I am a BIG fan of Kehinde Wiley, and was really excited when he was tapped to do Barack's painting. I was not disappointed. I really like how he seems to float in front of the greenery. I also like Michelle's. Originally I wasn't wowed by it, but looking at it more it just seems to exude the power of her presence. The focus on the dress almost makes it look regal on some level.
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Made in Macau View Post
The Guardian's art critic has strong words to say - he loves the Michelle Obama painting - 'Sherald’s painting is remarkable – a new birth for the portrait, even.'
'The pose Michelle adopts is anything but formal or offputting. She sits introspectively, as if sharing a secret. She looks vulnerable and exposed, a human being without pompous armour. The soft, poetic tones of Sherald’s painting are disarming and completely unexpected in a formal portrait.'

https://www.theguardian.com/artandde...erald-michelle

As for me - I liked his and not hers.

MiM
I found this very interesting, because what I've noticed is that most people have the exact opposite impression. They thought Barack's was good while Michelle's struck a wrong note.
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:15 AM
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I found this very interesting, because what I've noticed is that most people have the exact opposite impression. They thought Barack's was good while Michelle's struck a wrong note.
I like hers better as a painting. I like his better as a representative of who he is. Or at least one aspect of who he is.

Last edited by Loach; 02-13-2018 at 10:16 AM.
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:15 AM
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At least he’s not holding a severed head.
I saw those yesterday. Didn't exactly endear me to this particular artist, but hey, freedom of speech and all like that there, so folks are welcome to make those kinds of statements about women that look like me.
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:17 AM
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Whoever combined the portrait of Obama with Homer Simpson disappearing into the bushes is a national treasure.
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:18 AM
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I'm a big fan of both paintings. They're really well done.

I agree however that Michelle's face isn't a great likeness, even if it's a good piece of art. Also, her skin looks gray rather than skin colored, but that might be on purpose. Barack's is more detailed and realistic while Michelle's is more geometric, and the flat blue background and dull gray skin might be intended to highlight that. Hers is almost like a Rothko painting come to life. Flat colors and shapes. His has more of a post-impressionist feel, like one of Gaugin's Tahitian women.

Barack's is stunning. I would consider hanging a print of it on my wall. The greenery, the flowers, the rich wooden chair, the blue suit, it all fits together well. One of the best Presidential portraits I've seen.
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:25 AM
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The way he's got his hands is weird, at least to me. I don't know that I've ever rested my hands like that in my life. That's probably an annoying detail that I should just get past.
It looks like he's afraid someone will try to grab his genitals.

The more I look at these, the less I like Barack's portrait and the more I love Michelle's. Her's is stunning and interesting and even evocative of other famous art works (The Pieta, for one), and he looks lost in the weeds.
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:36 AM
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While I think Michelle’s likeness is questionable, I think the other aspects of the painting are really striking. The composition is great, and the dress is a bold statement. I think it also does a great job of capturing her character.
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:39 AM
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While I think Michelle’s likeness is questionable, I think the other aspects of the painting are really striking. The composition is great, and the dress is a bold statement. I think it also does a great job of capturing her character.
If I was Michelle, I'd be thrilled. If I was Barack, I'd be... well, I'd probably be off playing golf somewhere and wouldn't really give a shit, but I would't be thrilled.
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:58 AM
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Both portraits are about the artist and not the subject. Obama is hovering on a weirdly shaped chair that he is barely sitting on. His hands look like Uncle Jack's fake hands and his expression is of annoyance.
Michelle's is worse, it is a portrait of the dress and she fades into the background. Her arms look absurdly long as does the dress.
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Old 02-13-2018, 11:06 AM
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...Michelle's is worse, it is a portrait of the dress and she fades into the background. Her arms look absurdly long as does the dress.
You know who else distorted the portions of a woman's body in a work of art?
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Old 02-13-2018, 11:16 AM
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Both portraits are about the artist and not the subject.
This. I think you hit on exactly what I was feeling but having a hard time expressing.

The subject should be the first thing drawing in the viewer. The design should secondary. The "style" of the artist is eating both people alive.

It is like when a person's clothes wear them versus them wearing their clothes.
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Old 02-13-2018, 11:23 AM
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I like the Barack one as a portrait. I like the Michelle one as art.
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Old 02-13-2018, 11:52 AM
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I knew that Kehinde Wiley did Obama’s the instant I saw it. He has such a distinctive style.
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Old 02-13-2018, 11:59 AM
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Barack's portrait makes him look older and tireder than me. Since he is neither, I find it a little off-putting. A portrait of him with that big grin/laugh would seem more fitting.
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Old 02-13-2018, 12:04 PM
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I would never in a hundred years guess that is supposed to be Michelle Obama if I didn't know beforehand.

His, I think is a little loud, but I like it fine.
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Old 02-13-2018, 12:09 PM
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My first reaction to each was "blech," but Barack's is growing on me (heh) while Michelle's still just looks stilted and washed-out. Hope their official White House portraits will be more in the traditional style.

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Both portraits are about the artist and not the subject....
Also true.
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Old 02-13-2018, 12:39 PM
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I seem to be in the minority in that I liked her portrait better than his. But both of them are visually striking, even more so when they are included in with other presidential portraits. They'll just stand out as BAM! game changers from all the paintings of old white dudes in suits.
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Old 02-13-2018, 12:54 PM
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So does someone know what difference is between the "Official" portraits and other official portraits? I was thinking maybe the ones selected for the Portrait Gallery are less formal? I was Googling around trying to find a distinction because I am noticing more than 1 portrait in lots of cases, with one being more formal, and the other being more trendy.

As in this formal one of President Kennedy:
https://periodicpresidents.files.wor...k-portrait.jpg

And this informal one:
https://mowryjournal.files.wordpress...pg?w=388&h=898

Or this informal Norman Rockwell of Nixon:
https://www.thenation.com/wp-content...xon_cc_img.jpg

Informal pixelated Bill Clinton:
http://www.drawingandpaintinglessons...rviewArt04.jpg


Are these just part of other collections?

I have also seen more than one First Lady portrait:

http://radio.foxnews.com/wp-content/...h-Portrait.jpg

http://media1.popsugar-assets.com/fi...l-Portrait.jpg

Which is Official, official? One, neither, or both?

If these of the Obamas are the trendy ones, then I am not quite so put off.
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Old 02-13-2018, 12:54 PM
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I've seen both pictures. If I were Obama and I had paid for those, I'd want my money back.
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Old 02-13-2018, 12:56 PM
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I seem to be in the minority in that I liked her portrait better than his.
Hers I would hang on my wall as art.

His I would hang on my wall if I wanted a portrait of Barack Obama on my wall.

So for me, which I like better depends on "as what?"
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Old 02-13-2018, 01:08 PM
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I think Barack's portrait has way too much background, and it's too busy. It distracts away from the man himself.
This my reaction as well. The portrayal of the man himself is excellent. The expression on his face shows welcome and wisdom.

But the wall of bright color around him is distracting. It's not even behind him, it's creeping over him, like he's about to be overwhelmed. There's no depth to the plants, no floor, no distance. I feel like I could use photoshop to desaturate, defocus, and shade the background to vastly improve the image.
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Old 02-13-2018, 01:19 PM
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The way he's got his hands is weird, at least to me. I don't know that I've ever rested my hands like that in my life. That's probably an annoying detail that I should just get past.
I think the way that his left hand is drawn so oversized is making it look weird. It's the same size as his face.

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...
Michelle's is worse, it is a portrait of the dress and she fades into the background. Her arms look absurdly long as does the dress.
I get what the artist was doing with the dress, and think that's the best part of the composition. But her left arm looks like her hand would hang somewhere around her knees... if where her knee was positioned didn't make it look like her thighs and calves were each as long as her torso. Actually, there's something about the way the dress hangs on her that makes her torso look like a barrel. So I guess I think the best part of the composition is the skirt of the dress.

Basically, I think both needed to be either more realistic, or more abstracted; this in-between just looks off.
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Old 02-13-2018, 01:36 PM
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Hers I would hang on my wall as art.

His I would hang on my wall if I wanted a portrait of Barack Obama on my wall.

So for me, which I like better depends on "as what?"
Yeah, her portrait is just compelling as art. For his portrait, my first thought was a) it looks like he's sitting in front of the ivy covered outfiled wall at Wrigely Field and b) that can't be right, he's a White Sox fan.
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Old 02-13-2018, 01:47 PM
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People do remember that Obama went to Harvard law school, an Ivy League school, and taught law at University of Chicago, another university famous for ivy-covered buildings, right?
Wrigley Field isn't the only place in the world, or even Chicago, with ivy on the wall.

Not picking on madmonk28, the Chicago news is full of people making similar comments.
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Old 02-13-2018, 01:52 PM
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As art I prefer Michelle's even though it doesn't look like her. I would think Barack's was okay too if the first thing I didn't think of when I saw the greenery was a different sort of greenery than ivy which is slowly becoming more legally acceptable across America, and even though it doesn't actually look like that at all, I can't unsee it.

I don't think these are unstuffy paintings, either. Any style that has been around for around 100 years counts as traditional.
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Old 02-13-2018, 01:59 PM
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Whoever combined the portrait of Obama with Homer Simpson disappearing into the bushes is a national treasure.
Well, perhaps they should have gotten Matt Groening to do the official Obama portrait. Though, I might be a little anxious about him getting the eye count right.
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Old 02-13-2018, 02:01 PM
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Whoever combined the portrait of Obama with Homer Simpson disappearing into the bushes is a national treasure.
Oh, come on, you know you just have to link to something like that.

https://media1.giphy.com/media/3ohs4...ozw4/giphy.gif

Last edited by cochrane; 02-13-2018 at 02:03 PM.
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Old 02-13-2018, 02:05 PM
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Wrigley Field isn't the only place in the world, or even Chicago, with ivy on the wall.
The portrait background isn't even ivy. Ivy has a distinctive 3 lobed leaf shape. If the artist wanted to depict an ivy covered wall, he would have painted ivy. And of course, ivy does not produce colorful flowers. The portrait background seems to be a generic depiction of nature.

Last edited by scr4; 02-13-2018 at 02:08 PM.
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Old 02-13-2018, 02:07 PM
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I've seen both pictures. If I were Obama and I had paid for those, I'd want my money back.
He didn't pay for them, but Obama did select the artist and gave him input into how he wanted his portrait to look. Although he joked that he wanted the artist to take away the grey hair and do something about the ears. Obama seemed quite pleased with the result.
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Old 02-13-2018, 02:35 PM
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So does someone know what difference is between the "Official" portraits and other official portraits? I was thinking maybe the ones selected for the Portrait Gallery are less formal? I was Googling around trying to find a distinction because I am noticing more than 1 portrait in lots of cases, with one being more formal, and the other being more trendy.

[1] As in this formal one of President Kennedy:
https://periodicpresidents.files.wor...k-portrait.jpg

[2] And this informal one:
https://mowryjournal.files.wordpress...pg?w=388&h=898

[3] Or this informal Norman Rockwell of Nixon:
https://www.thenation.com/wp-content...xon_cc_img.jpg

[4] Informal pixelated Bill Clinton:
http://www.drawingandpaintinglessons...rviewArt04.jpg....
The National Portrait Gallery often has several portraits of each President, but only one is designated as the "official" portrait, I believe. Picture 1 is JFK's official White House, not NPG, portrait. Picture 2 is JFK's official NPG portrait, as shown in the OP's link. Picture 3 is Nixon's official NPG portrait, also as shown in the OP's link. Picture 4 isn't shown in the OP's link, but I have seen it myself at the NPG (it's quite striking, in person), and believe it is indeed Clinton's official NPG portrait.
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