As the new portraits of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have been unveiled, both have been met with praise and criticism. For the first time in American history, African-American artists were commissioned to create both of these works. Artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have also claimed another first in the history of presidential portraiture by breaking away from traditional compositions and palettes that have been so prominent in past commissioned works. Kehinde’s portrait of Barack Obama places him in front of a verdant floral background, with blooms that represent Chicago, Hawaii and Kenya, while Sherald’s representation of Michelle Obama utilizes a grey scale palette to create a calm and dignified portrait that conveys a sense of dignity and strength.
While much discussion has been generated about these two portraits, one thing is certain; These portraits are like none other that have been produced in honor of previous First Families. It proved to be rich fodder for late night talk show hosts across the board, with everyone from Seth Myers to Steven Colbert riffing on the works themselves, and the controversy that they have generated. Check out Jimmy Kimmel’s take on the situation here, where he ponders what the next presidential portrait might look like, given the tendencies of the current commander in chief. Rest assured, it got a lot of laughs.