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Amy Sherald

Artist 13 Amy Sherald Greyscale Portraiture


Amy Sherald, is an American painter based in Baltimore, Maryland. Her work started out autobiographical in nature, but has taken on a social context since she moved to Baltimore.

She is best known for her portrait paintings that address social justice, as well as her choice of subjects, which are drawn from outside of the art historical narrative. The National Museum of Women in the Arts states that her work examines personal identity as a response to political, social, and cultural expectation.


Sherald's work focuses on issues of race and identity in the American South. Her portraits focus on African-Americans.

Over the years, her figurative painting has evolved into what the New York Times described as "a stylized realism."



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.


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.






‘I told her that I wanted to paint her in my greyscale... so that when people walk into this space of things that look continuously the same, and then all of a sudden there's a break in that. And there was a break in history, as well - when they were in office - when he was in office.’ - Amy Sherald





My focus today will be her style of painting and how she uses her portraits to uplift and speak critically of how her community has been portrayed.



Removing the colour brown from her colour scheme is successful in proving that your racial identity is more than just a colour. The bright colours in contrast to the grey scale add a brightness and light heartedness to her work. She deals with ‘expectation’ and how to break these.


Representation is important and this shows how portraiture provides a way to create self image and add social critic.










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