Amy Sherald

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Amy Sherald
Born (1973-08-30) August 30, 1973 (age 45)
Alma mater
Known forOfficial Portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama

Amy Sherald (born August 30, 1973) is an American painter based in Baltimore, Maryland.

She is best known for her portrait paintings. Her choices of subjects look to enlarge the genre of American art historical realism, by telling African American stories within their own tradition.[1]


She studied at the Clark Atlanta University, where she earned her Bachelor of the Arts degree in painting in 1997. After that, she became an apprentice to Dr. Arturo Lindsay, who was an art history professor at Spelman College.[2] In 1997, she was also a part of the Spelman College International Artist-in-Residence program in Portobelo, Panama. She attended the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2004, where she earned her M.F.A. in painting.[3] After gaining her M.F.A, she lived and studied with painter Odd Nerdrum in Larvik, Norway.[4] In 2008 she attained an artist residency assistantship at the Tong Xion Art Center in Beijing, China.[5]


Sherald's work focuses on issues of race and identity in the American South. Today, she only paints African-Americans. Her experience of being one of very few black students to attend a private school often influences her work.[6] Sherald began with bald self-portraits and then moved into more fantastical work that explored the idea of circus, and fantasy. Over the years, her figurative painting has evolved into what the New York Times described as "a stylized realism."[6]

At the beginning of her career, Sherald started out by installing and curating shows in the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo and the 1999 South American Biennale in Lima, Peru. In addition, she has taught art in the Baltimore City Detention Center.[6] Recently, her work was acquired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts.[7] She also has helped to organize and install international exhibitions in Central and South America.

First Lady Portrait[edit]

On February 12, 2018 the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery revealed Sherald's portrait of Michelle Obama making her the first black woman to paint an official First Lady portrait.[6] During a double portrait unveiling ceremony attended by both Obamas she and Kehinde Wiley were revealed not only as the first black artists to make official presidential portraits at the National Portrait Gallery but also as artists who each early on prioritized African-American portraiture. Holland Cotter noted in a review that they both blend fact and fiction in their portraiture.[8][9][10][11]


African-American culture[edit]

Sherald's work offers a critical view of African-American history and the representation of the African-American body. She is known for painting skin tones in greyscale, as a way of going against the concept of color-as-race.[2]


After moving to Baltimore Sherald shifted her work from autobiographical, due to the amount of poverty seen within the city.[12] Baltimore inspired her to create art that would encourage people to see themselves outside of their everyday environment and lifestyle.

Private life[edit]

Sherald was diagnosed at the age of 31 with congestive heart failure. She was the recipient of a heart transplant in December 18, 2012 at the age of 39.[13]


Public collections[edit]


  1. ^ Kennicott, Philip (May 14, 2018). "Painting Michelle Obama brought Amy Sherald fame. Now, the artist wants to make works 'to rest your eyes.'". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Amy Sherald". National Museum of Women in the Arts. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  3. ^ McCauley, Mary Carole (December 19, 2016). "Equipped with new heart, Baltimore's Amy Sherald gains fame with surreal portraiture". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  4. ^ "Amy Sherald Wins National Gallery Portrait Competition". BmoreArt | Baltimore Contemporary Art. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  5. ^ Hill, The University of North Carolina at Chapel. "The Magical Real-ism of Amy Sherald - Gallery Exhibition - UNC Stone Center". Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Robin Pogrebin (October 23, 2017), After a Late Start, an Artist’s Big Break: Michelle Obama’s Official Portrait New York Times.
  7. ^ Valentine, Victoria L. (March 26, 2016). "Portrait of an Artist: Baltimore-based Amy Sherald Wins Smithsonian's Outwin Boochever Competition | Culture Type". Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  8. ^ "Michelle Obama portrait by Baltimore artist Amy Sherald makes national splash". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2018-02-12.
  9. ^ "Watch: Unveiling of President and Mrs. Obama's Portraits at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery". Updates. Obama Foundation. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  10. ^ Cotter, Holland (2018-02-12). "Obama Portraits Blend Paint and Politics, and Fact and Fiction". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-12.
  11. ^ "Sidedoor". Retrieved 2018-05-05.
  12. ^ "Art Talk with Painter Amy Sherald | NEA". Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  13. ^ Sanders, Marlisla. "Amy Sherald, A Second Life". IRAAA Museum. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  14. ^ Lindsay, Arturo, ed. (February 3 – April 22, 2011). "The Magic Real-ism of Amy Sherald" (PDF).
  15. ^ Design, TOKY Branding +. "Amy Sherald | Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis". Retrieved 2018-03-25.
  16. ^ "Amy Sherald: Paintings | Reginald F. Lewis Museum". Retrieved 2018-03-25.

External links[edit]