How Barack Obama Reinvigorated The Presidential Portrait

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Monday, February 17, 2020 - 1:46pm
Updated: Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - 2:31pm

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Barack Michelle Obama presidential portraits
Kehinde Wiley, Amy Sherald
"Barack Obama" by Kehinde Wiley and "Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama" by Amy Sherald, from the National Portrait Gallery.

It’s President’s Day, and so we’d like to take a few minutes to talk about a presidential tradition that holds strong nearly 250 years later: Painting a presidential portrait.

The tradition got a big dose of publicity a few years ago when President Barack Obama unveiled his presidential portrait by Nigerian-American painter Kehinde Wiley. In short, it changed the game. Since its unveiling, the National Portrait Gallery has experienced a record number of visitors and now, it’s set to tour the nation so more people can see it.

For more on what presidential portraits represent today and in the past, The Show sat down with Betsy Fahlman, a professor of art history at ASU.

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