Critics said the former president looked like he was crouching in an outhouse, or that the painting of Michelle Obama did not look like her at all. The former president's was commissioned from Kehinde Wiley; the first lady's from Amy Sherald.
The museum now holds the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House.
Perhaps as a sign of the growing polarisation that the United States is experiencing, both portraits generated praise and admiration from the critics, who highlighted the place of the Obama in the history of the U.S., and reactions from a perplexed public, trying to decipher the message. "The greenery of the backdrop shows us Obama's vitality and global connectedness - but the man himself feels still stuck at his desk". Her portrait of Michelle Obama fits neatly into her current style, of African American subjects, painted with gray-toned skin, in colorful clothes on a flat plane.
It was reported that if the First Lady was disappointed in the portrait, she was far too gracious to let on.
Dr. Eugene Gu, a columnist for The Hill, agreed, tweeting: "Michelle Obama is an elegant lady and the portrait looks nice".
"Just saw the Presidential Portrait".
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It was thought he would issue a statement or host a press conference this morning - however he has not done so. Zuma's entire cabinet would have to step down if such a vote went through. "We cant wait.
Both portraits will hang in Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. alongside those of previous American leaders.
Why is former First Lady Michelle Obama's dress in her official Smithsonian portrait so monumental?
"I'm thinking of all the girls of colour who will come and see someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American Institution", said the former USA first lady. Wiley is well-known for his depictions of African Americans in grandiose settings, and Obama joked that he had to ask him to tone it down for the piece.
Those unfamiliar with Sherald's other works were struck by her distinct visual style, but the decisions Sherald makes with colors serve a powerful objective and are present throughout her other works. What do you think the artists were trying to convey - and do you think they were successful? There's a lot to see if you let yourself look. He mentioned his adrenaline rush, explained the symbolic system of flowers in the portrait's verdure, and sat down.
Mr. Obama has much better luck with his similarly high-profile portraitist. The painting includes "dozens of little sperm cells" across the canvas, the blog said, noting that the corners of the portrait's frame contains "an egg-like orb with sperm cells crawling on them". The mouth and the eyes and the strong arms that we know are present, but fainter.
Art historian Paul Staiti says the Obama portraits - full of color and unique concepts - are fresh and exciting in a field of generally staid presidential portraiture.