The official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama were unveiled today at the National Portrait Gallery.
This morning, the official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama were unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery. In addition to being gorgeous depictions of the former first couple, there was some hidden symbolism in Barack’s portrait.
In his portrait, Barack Obama is seated in a chair surrounded by lush greenery. But the flowers that the artist Kehinde Wiley painted are not just beautiful—they signify different aspects of the former president’s life.
According to the New York Times, the African blue lilies represent Kenya, Barack’s father’s birthplace; jasmine stands for Hawaii, where he was born; and the chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago, reference the city where his political career began, and where he met Michelle.
In addition to making history as the first black President and First Lady, the Obamas’ portraits made history as the first presidential portraits to be painted by African American artists. New York based artist Kehinde Wiley, who is known for his depictions of people of color, painted Barack. Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald, who became the first woman to win the National Portrait Gallery Outwin Boochever Portrait competition in 2016, painted Michelle.
“What I can say unequivocally is that I am in awe of Kehinde’s gifts, and what he and Amy have given to this country, and to the world, and we are both very grateful,” Barack said at the unveiling.