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Barack and Michelle

The National Portrait Gallery may be my favorite museum in Washington. The official portraits of all U.S. presidents and other distinguished Americans—from Pete Rose to Toni Morrison—are marvelous and alone worth the trip.

The Gallery shares the landmark Greek Revival building that once housed the U.S. Patent Office with the Smithsonian American Art Museum whose contemporary art you might not love, but have to see.

We put off a visit to the museum because the portraits of Michelle and Barack Obama were drawing crowds and who wanted to wait in line to see two paintings?

But we couldn’t return to Massachusetts without seeing the controversial portraits ourselves. Yes, they are different in person. And yes, they are different from past presidential portraits (The portrait of Bill Clinton by Chuck Close is pretty different too.)

I didn’t like Barack’s portrait. I didn’t mind the Hawaiian flower background. I just didn’t think it captured his spirit. As for Michelle’s, it’s a beautiful painting. But not of Michelle Obama.


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Reminds me of Winston Churchill who disliked his portrait so much that he took it home and burned it. The portraits of the Obamas aren’t that bad but I was disappointed.

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