Barack and Michelle Obama's official portraits unveiled

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 COUPLED UP Michelle and Barack Obama

Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday offered what was perhaps the most weird assessment yet of former President Barack Obama's official portrait by suggesting an artist included "sexual innuendo" in his depiction of the 44th president.

Kehinde Wiley, the artist who painted former President Barack Obama's official portrait, also produced a pair of paintings depicting black women decapitating white people.

"These portraits - the first ever to be commissioned by African American artists for the National Portrait Gallery - aren't about me and how I want to remember the Obamas".

"Michelle Obama portrait faces brutal mockery, some praise after unveiling", read a Fox News headline.

"He and I make different sartorial decisions", he continued, a joking reference to Wiley's bold choices (he wore a black-and-white patterned suit to the ceremony). President Obama is set against a riot of greenery that, according to the artist, charts "his path on Earth through those plants". Wiley says the books served as a "menu" of the elements of a portrait. The Yale University-trained painter was known for his previous work depicting African-Americans in the style of Old Masters paintings. Indeed, the pose of Obama, who is seen in a dark suit with an open-collar shirt, sitting with his arms crossed and resting on his knees, recalls Robert Anderson's official 2008 portrait of George W. Bush, who is rendered in a similar, casual pose.

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"I'm thinking of all the girls of colour who will come and see someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American Institution", said the former U.S. first lady. Sherald has a significant career, but has only in her 40s emerged on the national stage.

For the most part, though, people were just really excited. What happens when you're painting the head of the free world?

"And then you have the African blue lilies that point to the late father of President Barack Obama from Kenya", Caragol explained.

Several people took to Twitter to counter criticism that Ms Obama's portrait did not look like her. The use of gray is a political statement of sorts for Sherald, in which she discards the assigned "color" of African-American subjects. She tells All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro that she was keenly aware of the challenge of painting an already famous person.

"Milly's design also resembles the inspired quilt masterpieces made by the women of Gee's Bend, a small remote black community in Alabama where they compose quilts in geometries that transform clothes and fabric remnants into masterpieces", she said.

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"I was blown away by the boldness of Amy's colors", she said. It's white and features a pattern that seems to nod to the geometric art of Piet Mondrian.

I think the portrait is one answer. "In the first few seconds of our conversation, I knew she was the one for me". In this way, Sherald wondrously troubles assumptions about blackness and representation in portraiture.

Typically, an official presidential portrait unveiling at National Portrait Gallery might be a ho-hum affair, even with the traditional pomp and circumstance.

But ultimately, it presents something new. "'I've got enough political problems without you making me look like Napoleon, '" he said with a laugh.

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