Obama portraits

That’s a great argument–against a claim I never made. I never said he didn’t stand out from the background. Of course he does. He’s a completely different color.

I also never said the artist’s other art looked bad. In fact, I said the exact opposite. I like all his other art, but think this one doesn’t look as good. Why would my aesthetic assessment of his other art have any influence on my aesthetic assessment of this one? Are they all going to be put together in a single work? No–they stand alone, so I judge them alone.

Perhaps my explanation for what I dislike was unclear, so I will try again.

I think it looks bad because it has no floor or shadows. I think the background looks so realistic that I see it as real. The fact that parts of it stick out in front of Obama make it look even more like it’s supposed to be real.

But, without the shadows and floor, it looks wrong. There’s this constant fight between seeing Obama as really there in front of a real bush, and seeing Obama as just added to a preexisting background. The best I can do to resolve it is to see him in a floating chair, which is weird.

By cropping out the floor and where the shadows would be, I remove that disconcerting effect, and I can enjoy the art better. I then also crop out part of the top to restore balance, so Obama doesn’t look like he’s really short.
And while scale can add something to the art, I’ve never once found that it fixes what I perceive as an aesthetic flaw. Making it bigger just makes any flaws stand out more. Changing the context can fix it, but bigger just makes flaws more apparent. And, to be honest, I can’t conceive of why it would. The best art looks good at a distance and close up.

One thing I’ve learned about arguing aesthetic tastes is that there is no way that I can convince you of mine, nor me yours. The best we can do is communicate why we feel the way we feel. I hope I have made myself sufficiently clear.

My opinion is that it looks really good until I see the feet and the fact that he’s not standing on anything. It works when the background looks fake, but not when it looks real. And this background looks real.

I think Barack’s looks really good. It is quirky and humorous yet the sitter loses none of his gravitas. I completely disagree with the argument that the background is somehow too busy, and BigT your crop ruins it for me. I bet at full size the effect is stunning.

Michelle’s does nothing for me, though I suspect that at full size in the right setting I may be persuaded otherwise. I don’t think it could ever be truly memorable for me though.

Michelle’s has really grown on me. The more I look at it, the more I like it.

Just the fact that everyone’s talking about the background of Barack’s portrait is a sign that something’s wrong. It’s a portrait of him; we should be talking about how he looks. And we would be, if the artist had chosen a less conspicuous background.

I don’t like either of the portraits. The proportions are all wrong some how, although Barack’s not nearly as much, the hand mostly. Michelle’s portrait though, my first though was that it would make a good supernatural monster movie prop. It’s just…ugly and unnatural. Her portrait makes me think if I were in the same room with it, I’d expect to look away for a moment and when I looked back, she’d have crawled half way out of the front of the picture with her jaw stretched open inhumanly far with a mouth full of fangs as she reached for me with those claws she has.
The poor photoshop editing look they both have doesn’t help

Don’t give Rush Limbaugh any ideas.

Love the Obamas, hate these portraits. I prefer a more photo-realistic portrait style though.

Thanks for posting the link to other presidential portraits- now I want my facial hair to match Chester A. Arthur.

You want it to match Chester A. Arthur’s facial hair, or you want it to match ALL of Chester A. Arthur? Because the one seems more achievable than the other.

And now they’ve met!: https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/07/politics/parker-curry-meets-michelle-obama-portrait-don-lemon-cnntv/index.html


The portraits are going to go on the road: https://www.cnn.com/style/article/obama-portraits-kim-sajet-smithsonian/index.html

Definitely interesting. I don’t like the style though. The hands are too big and the face looks Photoshoped on.
If I was Obama I would ask them to hang Alex Ross’ portrait of Obama in the gallery.

Ha! As one can (barely) see in my avatar, I’m on my way… I didn’t even remember posting that in this thread!

A different article with remarks by the Obamas, and the painters, at the 2018 unveiling: https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/a17762726/amy-sherald-kehinde-wiley-obama-portraits/

I looked at it and thought, “Ayeup, that’s how I remember him as portrayed on Saturday Night Live.”

How closely involved were the Obamas (or portrait targets more generally) with the portrait designs? Do they look at sketches of the proposed portraits before painting begins?

I’m no artist, so can’t explain what I’d prefer, but I also found the background on Obama’s painting incongruous. No objection to the surreality itself, but wouldn’t a lighter color, e.g. soft pink or a much lighter green, have worked better?

Other than that, I agree with WordMan:

Michelle Obama is, by far, the most beautiful First Lady in history, and indeed the most beautiful of any American woman involved even indirectly in politics. I hope it isn’t misogynistic to admit that I’d have preferred a portrait that somehow captured that beauty. (Maybe it’s too difficult, since her beauty is enhanced by movement. If a static picture cannot fully capture that, it might be better not to try at all.)

As beautiful as Mrs. Obama is, I’m not sure I’d call her “by far, the most beautiful First Lady in history.” She has some real competition for that title:



A photo of Trump in the Oval Office is now up in the National Portrait Gallery. I’m not at all a fan of the guy, but I’d say it is a good portrait: Trump portrait displayed alongside those of other presidents

It is not bad but they really should have gotten Ben Garrison to do it.

This made me smile:

And if you just gotta have 'em on your wall:


Or even in your wardrobe: