Obamas official portraits unveiled

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The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery unveiled portraits of Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama this morning. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The National Portrait Gallery has unveiled portraits of former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, both painted by African-American artists who were personally chosen by the Obamas.

The portraits were unveiled to the public Monday. The gallery has a complete collection of presidential portraits. A second and different set of portraits of the former first couple will eventually hang in the White House.

Barack Obama's portrait was painted by Kehinde Wiley - an artist best known for his vibrant, large-scale paintings of African-Americans. For Michelle Obama's portrait, the gallery commissioned Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald, first-prize winner of the Portrait Gallery's 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.

Former President Barack Obama, right, and Artist Kehinde Wiley, left, unveil Obama's official portrait at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018.


Former President Obama says that sitting down for his presidential portrait was a frustrating experience.

Speaking at the painting's unveiling ceremony, Obama said he normally hates posing, saying he gets impatient and starts "looking at my watch."

But he told the crowd that working with artist Wiley was "a great joy."

Former President Barack Obama, looks at former first lady Michelle Obama's official portrait at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018.


The former president, who personally chose Wiley, said the artist listened carefully to his suggestions and then ignored most of them. Obama said he asked for less gray hair and was denied. He also says he tried to "negotiate smaller ears and struck out on that as well."

The portraits will be officially installed and available for public viewing starting on Feb. 13.

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