Teaching Activities for: 'Obama Portraits Blend Paint and Politics, and Fact and Fiction'

Kehinde Wiley has set Barack Obama against greenery, with flowers that have symbolic meaning. Amy Sherald’s take on Michelle Obama emphasizes an element of couturial spectacle and rock-solid cool.

Left, Kehinde Wiley; right, Amy Sherald

Before reading the article:

Look closely at the portraits of the former first lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama, above. What details do you notice in each portrait? What is your impression of each, and why?

Now, read art critic Holland Cotter’s review, “Obama Portraits Blend Paint and Politics, and Fact and Fiction,” and answer the following questions:

1. Where were the portraits unveiled on Feb. 12? Who are the artists who painted each of the portraits?

2. What details does the article give about the National Portrait Gallery collection? Who is featured in the gallery and how is the gallery arranged?

3. What is special about the background in Mr. Obama’s portrait as well as his facial expression?

4. Why was Mrs. Obama’s choice of Amy Sherald surprising, according to the article? What details does the article give about Ms. Sherald’s background?

5. How do the artists blend fact and fiction in their portraits?

6. What point about portrait placement does the Times art critic Holland Cotter make at the end of his article, and why?

Source: Politics – Google news

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