Kehinde Wiley, based in New York City, is a portrait painter known for his highly naturalistic large-scale paintings of African-Americans. He was personally chosen by Barack Obama to paint his official presidential portrait which, along with one painted of Michelle Obama by a different artist, was unveiled on Monday, February 12, 2018, in a ceremony held at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
The portraits were well received as were the remarks given by the Obamas and the artists, especially when Barack thanked his wife’s artist for capturing the grace, beauty, intelligence, charm, and hotness of the woman he loves.
There are many subtle touches in the painting of Barack, with one of the interesting ones being the scattered flowers in the background of a beautiful lush green leaf wall that mirror his ancestral and personal past as well as a nod to nature and the Hawaiian spiritual connection with all living things. Those include jasmine representing his Hawaiian roots, blue lilies for the homeland of his father in Kenya, and chrysanthemums as the official Chicago flower representing his political career there and where he also met Michelle.
Born in 1977 and growing up in South Central Los Angeles before his move to Harlem, Kehinde’s later education included the San Francisco Art Institute and the Yale School of Art. He has a number of renowned paintings including “Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps” and his newest 72-by-60-inch “Portrait of Simon George II”. The latter was purchased by the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento for its exhibit to honor Black History Month, “Hopes Springing High: Gifts of Art by African American Artists,” set to open on Sunday, February 18. The Crocker, as the gallery is nicknamed, is a California Historical Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.