In Summary
  • Both show their subjects — America's first black presidential couple — looking cool and confident, a stark contrast to the bubbling swamp of anger and braggadocio that is political Washington today.
  • Wiley painted the ex-president against a signature lush botanical backdrop.

Former US first couple Barack and Michelle Obama unveiled their portraits at Washington's National Gallery Monday, two contrasting works by African American artists that shocked and delighted.

The paintings by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, were revealed at a star-studded event that is a rite of passage for most former American presidents.

The museum holds portraits of all American ex-commanders in chief, but these latest additions stand in stark contrast to the more buttoned-down approach of traditional presidential portraiture.

Both show their subjects — America's first black presidential couple — looking cool and confident, a stark contrast to the bubbling swamp of anger and braggadocio that is political Washington today.

Wiley painted the ex-president against a signature lush botanical backdrop.

Obama, in a serious seated pose at the edge of a wooden chair, is enmeshed in a thicket of leaves and flowers that recall the tropical hues of the 44th president's home state of Hawaii.

"How about that? That's pretty sharp," Obama joked, as he thanked staff and friends in attendance.

Artist Kehinde Wiley, and Amy Sherald attend their official portrait unveiling of former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Artist Kehinde Wiley, and Amy Sherald attend their official portrait unveiling of former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. PHOTO| AFP

The internet quickly got busy making jokes about him being stuck in a bush.

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