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Barack And Michelle Obama's Official Portraits


Here Are Barack And Michelle Obama's Official Portraits For The Smithsonian Gallery
HuffPost Australia

Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama’s official portraits were unveiled Monday at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. ... Read the full story




  • PaulBPaulB mod
    edited February 2018
    Is it bad form to continue the background down to cover the floor?

    This is bothering me.  I don't even know how to describe it.
  • Well, the figure and chair are good.  The background though ...

    I guess we're all used to seeing Mark's presidential portrait and this doesn't compare.
  • The chair is very well done,...
  • Nice pickup @movealonghome. Is it just me, but I find the composition a bit odd, as if he is about to slip off the bottom edge of the canvas. Looks like a bunch of objects sitting on top of each other in Adobe Illustrator. Maybe it was, given the cookie-cutter foliage shapes.

  • Regardless of the background, I don't feel this is the best pose or expression to capture Obama..
  • Mmm..I guess she traced and almost exactly copied a photo.. Even the rendering of the skin seems a glossy photo. Nothing wrong, is her style but seems she cannot draw. Here are all my last days doubts concentrated in one painting. Painting and leaving the impression of a photo. 

  • I didn’t mind the background at first until reading everyone’s posts. What bothers me about Obama’s portrait is the hands. I don’t really like Michelle’s at all.
  • I don't think the painting technique is the problem here (the guy has the technical skills to paint similar paintings to the other presidential portraits).    its the the fact that he painted the ex-president sitting in a bunch of foliage. It is purposefully non-traditional which I find to be wrong handed.  A presidential portrait should follow tradition.  This painting is not surprising however if you look at this guy's other works.
  • Yes of course @JeffAllen I wrote "seems" to express it was only my impression. Maybe he can draw and paint like an old Master, didn't want to be disrespectful, just is so precisely rendered I suspect he traced the whole chair and figure. Nothing wrong with it it's  just me lately focusing on this stuff. About the background I found it provocative on purpose. What they expect from an artist who painted black people holding white people's cutted head? He broke the tradition and I kinda of like it. Maybe he could use a background more natural and not using the same pattern over and over like in Photoshop like @movealonghome pointed out.
  • What a shame the artist isn’t a member of this forum because if he’d asked for a critique , we’d have told him to lose the hedge ,or at least tone it down. 
    To me it looks all wrong. Who would take an antique chair like that and put it in a  hedge ! 
    The hedge is the focal point , not Obama. 
    I wonder what Obama himself really thinks of it. 
    And that dress is wearing Michelle , not the other way around. 

  • Faces and hands convey a great deal about the person. Barack obama's pose seems out of place somehow. I don't think I've really ever seen him sitting like this. I wonder if the artist wanted to include his hands as part of the painting and this is what has caused the awkward pose.

    I don't think anyone would be happy with their portrait (unless Mark Carder did it!). Portraiture is not something every artist can do well. It really is a sector.

    I think the idea behind portraits is to focus on the face and maybe include one or both hands. But the background or other details are not the focus. The issue with both of these paintings is that the background or the dress (which consumes most of the painting) demand attention and consume the person portrayed. 

    It seems they both forgot one of the biggest basic tenets of portraiture: focus on detail in the face and much less detail on the surroundings.

    John Singer Sargent is shaking his head....
  • edited February 2018
    This may be the place, a good example to include making a distinction between good graphic design and illustration skills, and fine art painting. Nothing wrong with breaking traditions, but somehow compromised meaning along the way in this instance?
  • I think the artist knows well enough about good design, painting etc.  All his choices are intentional and probably have a meaning on some level.  I know the different plants in the image represent different geographical aspects of Obama (one of them has to do with Kenya, another with Hawaii and the other mean something else).

  • edited February 2018
    Maybe this is a fine piece of modern art, rather than realism? for a Presidential portrait for a change, this may be quite fitting in this sense.
  • edited February 2018
    Sometimes paintings suggest music.

  • I think they are refreshing , a real departure from tradition. Fabulous.
  • I agree.  I like them.
  • sometimes paintings also suggest poetry.
  • I laughed out loud when I saw them.  The faces look like they were molded from plastic putty.
  • I recall that when the princess portrait came out awhile back (what was her name again?) and was posted here, it got its share of critical remarks, even though it is quite a lovely portrait. I consider Barack's and Michelle's portraits to be somewhat interesting magazine covers at best.
  • The first thing I noticed after the foliage was it appeared that he had six fingers on his left hand but he was trying to hide it.
  • @BOB73 - yes, he does have six fingers on his left hand and there's been much discussion about it. I cannot imagine making that kind of mistake on such an important painting unless there was some kind of significance to it.

    But it does remind me of the six fingered man in The Princess Bride which would be a very unfortunate association. 
  • edited February 2018
    Well...Obama was a lot different compared to the others just the way Kennedy was. But still I do not like this portrait! The pose seems a little odd and the surroundings...His wife's portrait is modern though.
  • I can promise you one thing about myself regarding the above message, and that is, I promise you that I am indeed breaking old traditions in my art and in my life so that I may change, progress and continue to grow, when I learn from Mark C. and come here to this site, for the adversity I face everyday. I like that and I plan to have fun with this! This is a right and good thing to do.
  • If you showed me the painting of the Mrs., I would never know that was Michelle Obama - there is no likeness captured and the dress is upstaging her tremendously - with regard to the incredibly upstaging background of some kind of repeating flower pattern that President Obama is suspended upon and the astonishing 6th digit on his left palm, I think this is remedial, at best.  A shame actually considering what Mark Carder did for a President and all the others for hundreds of years.,  But, whatever, time will tell.  I am not impressed and would love to look back a hundred years from now.  For me, this is the most unimpressive Presidential portrait ever - and a 9th grader could have painted Michelle Obama better.  Find your niche.  I wish these "painters' the best.
  • Tradition is important and these just don't measure up.
  • edited February 2018
  • edwardedward -
    edited February 2018
    I keep seeing references to the six-fingered hand. It only looks that way from a distance. Actually it looks weird close-up as well, but it doesn't exactly look like a finger. Maybe that fold of skin on the side of the hand should have been de-emphasized a little...
  • Its not an extra finger.  It just him probably pushing with hand with the pressure causing the tissue to fold out.  Superficially I can understand why some would think it is an extra finger though.
  • I do sometimes wish a few traditions were maintained.
    Will people use graffiti to carry out restorations on the Sistine chapel in a few hundred years of will the best representational artists of that time be called upon?

     If I recall correctly, Marks portrait isn't exhibited at the gallery of portraits(an absolute sin), but elsewhere. These would probably make more sense there.
    Nothing wrong with them per se.. But.. I'd be pretty irritated seeing these next to a Sargent or for that matter even shiklers JFK portrait.
    I would much rather see a Richard schmid presidential portrait than this.

    If course all this doesn't matter because this topic is highly subjective and the Obama's wanted the first African American artists to paint the presidential portrait
    In a more modern style.
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