Earlier this month, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art and National Portrait Gallery unveiled the official portraits of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. I wasn’t much impressed by the images of the paintings that I saw in the media, but they certainly made me nostalgic for the not so distant past when we had people in the White House to respect and admire. Since I was visiting Washington D.C. this week, I decided to stop in at the National Portrait Gallery to see the portraits for myself.
After up close viewing, I have to say that I have revised my opinion of Rehinde Wiley’s painting of President Obama. The adventurous departure from previous staid and conventional Presidential portraits really works. Wiley truly captured the spirit of a great man and leader. I also revised my position on Amy Sherald’s portrait of the First Lady. Although I still think that it fails to capture the presence and radiance of Michelle Obama, as a painting it’s both bold and imposing.
If you’re visiting Washington, it’s worth a visit to this often overlooked gem in the Smithsonian museum group. The collection is diverse and extremely well curated. Not to mention the venue, which is the grand 19th century former Patents Building in the heart of the city.