Essay on Obama Portraits

Published: 2021/12/28
Number of words: 667

Art is a form of expression not only for the artist but of the society that they belong to. The greatest aim of any artist is to convey a deeper image of society as a whole by using images. This means that the artist must be rooted in the community or the issue that they’re trying to convey through their art. The two portraits of President Barack Obama and first lead Michelle Obama are a true depiction of pictures being worth a thousand words. The two portraits convey the artist’s feelings and how society viewed and felt regarding the President and his first lady.

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The works of the two artists are intended to be more than just portraits. Both artists have a few similarities. Most of their works are built around depicting the lives of African Americans in normal settings. They both used this form of painting when they came up with the portraits. Both portraits are centered in a rather unusual background. The artist did not concentrate on depicting the power that both the President and the first lady have by including symbols of power in the background, but rather the background setting can be described as being just normal. The portrait of President Obama has a background filled with vegetation. Looking at the portrait by Wiley, it will be hard to guess that Obama was the President as the portrait does not try to depict his power status (Blooming Possibility, n.d). But rather, it can be argued to represent Obama’s notion of supporting prosperity instead of self-exoneration. The portrait for the first lady has a plain blue background devoid of any details as well. It creates an impression that anyone can imagine themselves in her position (An Accessible Icon, n.d). This supports her long-lasting notion that anybody can be anything if they stop concreting on their current situations start might be holding them back.

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In the portraits, the artists try to convey several messages about the President and the first lady. In President Obama’s portrait, the artist depicts him as a calm and composed individual owing to his posture. This can be argued to depict the President’s nature while under pressure. The artist also captures the cultural background of the President by the use of flowers, which represent his father’s home in Africa, his birthplace, and the city in which his political career started (Blooming Possibility, n.d). In the first lady’s portrait, Sherald decides to use grey to represent Michelle Obama’s skin color. This can be viewed as a way to liberate the first lady from the stereotype and social context associated with her skin color and elevate her to a platform where she can represent the hopes and dreams of all people.

The paintings made me feel inspired. This is because they give me a new perspective of how to view life. Both paintings act as a summary of what both the President and the first lady stood for. They help to depict the notion that it is possible to define people according to what they stand for instead of the material things around them. In both portraits, the artists do not use symbols that can depict the status of the President and the first lady. This can be attributed to the fact that more good can be associated with their character, thus lowering the necessity to use material symbols to depict it. This inspires me to build my character to a similar level to impact society positively.


An Accessible Icon | The Art Institute of Chicago. The Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved 27 October 2021, from

Blooming Possibility | The Art Institute of Chicago. The Art Institute of Chicago. (n.d). Retrieved 27 October 2021, from

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