Amy Sherald

Great Artists

Portrait of Michelle Obama

Amy Sherald

Predominantly a portraitist of Black Americans in everyday settings, Sherald is best known now for her portrait, First Lady Michelle Obama, which is on display in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. 

Of all the opinions about the very public portrait, which was unveiled in the Washington, D.C., gallery in 2018, the one that really mattered to Sherald was the former first lady's. And she told the artist that she loved it. 

Of Obama, Sherald said, "We see our best selves in her."

[ Credit: First Lady Michelle Obama, oil on linen, by Amy Sherald, 2018, National Portrait Gallery]

Miss Everything by Amy Sherald
Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance) by Amy Sherald, oil on canvas, 2013. Frances and Burton Reifler, National Portrait Gallery

Michelle Obama selected Sherald to create her portrait after she won the National Portrait Gallery's 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition with her portrait, Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance), left. Sherald was the first woman and first African American to win the competition. 

Sherald was born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1973. She developed an early interest in art, and on a school trip to the Columbus Museum, she learned for the first time that art could become a profession and that people of color were represented in museums. This epiphany further ignited her drive to become an artist.

Sherald's style is described as simplified realism. Her portrait subjects are portrayed with "grisaille" or gray skin tones, her challenge to conventional thinking about skin color and race.


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