Barack and Michelle Obama created history yet again as their official portraits were unveiled at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery among the elite white club of presidents in Washington on Monday (February 12). The event was also significant as it was for the first time that not one, but two African-American artists were selected to paint the former POTUS and the FLOTUS. As it is also the Black History Month, the unveiling of the Obama portraits created a huge buzz online and Netizens couldn’t stop praising the portraits for how beautifully it depicted their “favourite” President and First Lady.
While Obama’s huge 84-inch canvas was painted by New York-based artist Kehinde Wiley, best known for his vibrant, large-scale paintings of African Americans; Michelle Obama’s powerful imagery was painted by Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald.
— Smithsonian (@smithsonian) 12 February 2018
The former president was painted in a suit – without a tie – against a background of leaves and flowers on the edge of a wooden chair, and the former FLOTUS looked lovely in a flowy dress with geometric patterns and a halter neckline. She was painted in a stoic and contemplative mood with her chin resting on her hand. Calling it “stunningly powerful” and “comforting”, Twitter users couldn’t stop gushing about the “groundbreaking moment”.
Can we talk about how stunningly powerful it is to see a black man in a garden the way Kehinde Wiley painted Barack Obama?!
It dismantles so much and creates new visions of masculinity that black men rarely have the public permission to explore. pic.twitter.com/pwycHtbbDX
— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) 12 February 2018
President Obama, the consummate gardner who tended our soil with a love and a fierceness this world has never seen, projects profound wisdom and the depth of his soul. I love every brushstroke. #ObamaPortraits pic.twitter.com/RVSuC96Cr2
— meta (@metaquest) 12 February 2018
There’s something very comforting about the #Obamas. I seek solace in knowing they will be around for many more decades while I deeply miss their presence in everyday life. #ObamaPortraits #KehindeWiley #AmySherald #BlackHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/s7umH4dbQD
— Bandit Aléatoire (@BanditRandom) 12 February 2018
Watching the Obamas on TV is like gazing at a prize winning, elegant cake through a bake shop window, when all you got at home is a wrinkled bloated orange carrot. #ObamaPortraits
— Brandon Horan (@brandon_r_horan) 12 February 2018
Watching Mrs. Obama speak makes me miss a President and First Lady who speak with eloquence, organization, rational thought patterns, but most of all without first grade level superlatives. #ObamaPortraits
— Daniel M. (@JacobSizzle) 12 February 2018
Listening to the Obamas & artists speak this morning at the National Portrait Gallery lifted my spirits! I miss the dignity, class, intelligence, scandal free administration, & kindness we knew with Obamas in the White House! #BlackHistoryMonth #DemForce #VoteBlue #ObamaPortraits pic.twitter.com/8G46U4RHdj
— AnalisaSwan#DemForce (@Analisa_Swan) 12 February 2018
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) 12 February 2018
What did Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald do?
They did THAT.
— Nerdy Wonka (@NerdyWonka) 12 February 2018
— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) 12 February 2018
— John Byrne (@dearjohnbyrne) 12 February 2018
I feel emotional about the #ObamaPortraits. What a groundbreaking moment. Major congrats to Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald on their National Portrait Gallery OFFICIAL portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama. #BlackHistoryMonth #BlackArt pic.twitter.com/U7OSCrpclo
— BRIANA 🎬🖤 (@briasoboojie) 12 February 2018
And even though Obama praised his wife’s portrait thanking Sherald for “capturing the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm and hotness of the woman” he loves, he also joked about how he tried to negotiate with his painter for “shorter ears” and less grey hair.
But soon, something else grabbed Tweeple’s attention. It was the picturesque background of Barack Obama’s photo. Although each flower on the official portrait depicted his journey on Earth — chrysanthemum, the official flower of Chicago, Hawaii’s jasmine, blue lilies from Africa — all symbolic of Obama’s heritage, it reminded others of something else. For many, it was reminiscent of the famous Simpson “hiding in the bush” GIF, and a few others couldn’t stop cracking punny jokes about his predecessors. Soon, it became a hit meme on Twitter. Sample these:
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) 13 February 2018
— Shoshana Weissmann, Sloth Committee Chair (@senatorshoshana) 12 February 2018
— Minnesota Patriot (@MinnPatriot) 13 February 2018
— Ɠҽɱɱα εℓҽαɳσ૨™ (@Lady_Star_Gem) 12 February 2018
— AJ (@ajfyi) 12 February 2018
— Chance McClain™ (@TexasChance) 13 February 2018
@BarackObama enjoying his new seat at #WrigleyField!#ObamaPortraits #ObamaPortrait #BarackObama #Barack#MondayMotivation #StateOfNASA #TrumpBudget #DarwinDay #VisibleWomen #DarwinDay2018 pic.twitter.com/4tGXwNeRh9
— ⓢⓗⓐⓛⓛŇØŦⓑⓔIИFЯIИGΞD (@The2ndA) 12 February 2018
My take on the Obamas official portrait.
— Veterans4🐸 AKA Crumbcollector (@DeplorableJWS) 12 February 2018
— Camilo Caffi (@caffi07) 12 February 2018
Who knew President Obama was Team Luann? pic.twitter.com/m13SICi5Ze
— Sam Herbst (@mrsamherbst) 12 February 2018
— KT NELSON (@KrangTNelson) 12 February 2018
nice of him to honor his predecessors, the bushes https://t.co/A9XJOrDXCG
— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) 12 February 2018
Is anyone else getting a Beyoncé vibe off Obama’s portrait? pic.twitter.com/FkcNVIVtte
— Surlymom (@Surly_Mom) 12 February 2018
— Thomas Purcell (@realTomPurcell) 12 February 2018
I have put together my own gallery of Barry Soetero ~ see the entire thread please 🙏 pic.twitter.com/Jr3jzZhHQD
— Darrell Standing (@StandingDarrell)