President Obama’s Portrait Painter’s Other Work Features Racial Beheadings

Former President Barack Obama, left, speaks at the unveiling ceremony for the Obama's official portraits at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, in Washington. Obama's portrait was painted by Artist Kehinde Wiley. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were at the famous Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C as both of their individual portraits were revealed Monday…but not without controversy.

Barack Obama’s portrait was painted by Kehinde Wiley, an artist best known for his vibrant, large-scale paintings of African Americans apparently beheading white people. The paintings reportedly have a biblical reference.

Both paintings, titled “Judith Beheading Holofernes,” portray Judith beheading the Assyrian general Holofernes from the deuterocanonical Book of Judith. In Mr. Wiley’s versions, Judith is a black woman holding the severed head of a white woman.

Michelle Obama’s portrait was painted by Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald, who is the first-prize winner of the 2016 Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.

Obama’s portrait will hang in the hall of presidents, and the former first lady’s will be placed in another gallery. Both will be open to public viewing on Tuesday.


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