First Lady Michelle Obama
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When Amy Sherald first learned that she was going to be painting the official portrait of First Lady, Michelle Obama, she told her mom first and then her dog.

We can totally get behind this priority list. Sherald was an established artist even before she was commissioned to paint the portrait. But, the painting has helped her gain new international fame and demand. With fame also came an onslaught of criticism from internet trolls turned art critics. Turns out this was just a troll toll the artist had to pay on her way to a very successful future. While the internet critics have dwindled away, Sherald has made a lasting impression on art collectors and galleries worldwide.

Michelle Obama says she instantly clicked with Amy when they met. At their first meeting, Sherald boldly expressed that she really wanted to paint the first lady rather than her husband. From the beginning, she intended to capture Mrs. Obama’s spirit, a private view of the very public figure. Many “critics” of the painting had issues with the gray tone of her skin and the size of the dress. The gray skin tone, however, wasn’t newly adopted for this painting, but rather a signature style in her works. The Obamas would have known of the artist’s intentional use of gray to “challenge the idea of color as race.”

Michelle Obama notes her reaction was just “wow” when she saw her portrait. She is the first in her family to be painted and she knew the type of impact Sherald’s painting was going to have on young girls of color visiting the Smithsonian. Soon after the painting was hung at the National Portrait Gallery, a video of a young visitor, Parker Curry, awestruck by the portrait went viral. Curry was so impressed by the painting that she thought Obama was a queen. Little Curry even met the First Lady after the video.

Demand has soared for the Sherald’s work since this portrait was revealed at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. The list of people who want to commission a portrait is so large at the moment that the number surpasses Sherald’s expected lifetime output. The monetary value of her portraits have also been steadily increasing. Even before the announcement of the presidential commission, Sherald’s portraits were selling at $35,000. After the announcement was made, the paintings have reached $50,000 and a current value is yet to be determined. The decision for accepting a commission is ultimately left to Amy Sherald who wants to eventually place her works in an institution accessible to the public.



  1. Doreen St. Felix, “The Mystery of Amy Sherald’s Portrait of Michelle Obama”. New Yorker, Feb 13, 2018.
  2. Rosenwald, Michael S, “‘A moment of awe’: Photo of little girl captivated by Michelle Obama portrait goes viral,” Washington Post, March 4, 2018.
  3. Sussman, Anna Louie. “Demand Soars for Amy Sherald’s Work Following Obama Portrait Reveal.” Artsy. Feb, 16, 2018.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about First Lady Michelle Obama (painting)

First Lady Michelle Obama is a 2018 portrait of Michelle Obama by the artist Amy Sherald for the National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C.

Obama selected the artist, as well as the dress by the brand Milly by fashion designer Michelle Smith. Obama's face is stylized in shades of gray, an artistic technique known as grisaille, a key theme in works by Sherald, and the background is a simple blue evoking American folk art. Rather than focusing on an individualized glamor, the dress dominates the work as a mountain-like triangle. The dress is a variation on a halter gown from the Spring 2017 collection, with a modern geometric pattern that Sherald said reminded her of the works of 20th century Dutch painter Mondrian and the African-American quilting tradition of Gee's Bend, Alabama.

Together with Kehinde Wiley's portrait of her husband Barack Obama, the paintings were first exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery on February 12, 2018. The unveiling led to thousands of visitors lined up at the entrance, and a threefold increase in visitors compared to the prior President's Day Weekend.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about First Lady Michelle Obama (painting).