Mrs-O.com is a blog dedicated to chronicling the fashion and style of First Lady Michelle Obama. Founded September 2008. 


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Laurie Munn's First Ladies 


The artist Laurie Munn with her portraits of former First Ladies 

As the saying goes, "Behind every great man, there's a great woman." How fitting then, that Simon Doonan, creative director for Barneys, called on talented artist Laurie Munn to contribute portraits for his timely First Ladies window display for the New York department store this fall. Debuting in late October, the display both rallied the American spirit and inspired a fondness for fedoras all at once. As endearing as the woolly headgear was, the real stars of the show were the beautiful portraits of former First Ladies (including potential 2009 contenders) by New York-based Munn.

We loved her use of brilliant color and fluid strokes, in stark contrast with the typically serious portraits we often see of political figures. For her portrait of Mrs. O, Munn chose October's More magazine cover shot for inspiration. Wearing a punchy pink Maria Pinto sheath for the cover, it was a look that embodied Mrs. O’s signature style: bold colors, body-conscious fit and classic silhouettes. 

Interestingly, there was quite an uproar about Barneys’s implicit political leaning from its window displays - that while Michelle Obama’s portrait was highly flattering, Cindy McCain looked angular and amid shrill laughter. Ultimately, Barneys chose to take down the two portraits in question due to pressure from its sponsors. When we caught up with Munn, she shrugged off the allegations, relaying that she wanted to make all of the women look beautiful. While she found some of the subjects were harder to paint, such as Barbara Bush and Pat Nixon, no political bias was intended.

In the two months that have passed, Mrs. O is of course now set to become our First Lady. When we spoke with Munn, we asked her the question on many of our minds: What should Mrs. O wear for the Inaugural Ball? Munn envisions something sweet and simple, in purple or off-red, perhaps channeling Jackie Kennedy.

A portrait artist by training, Munn's First Ladies series was not her first foray into political art. She had previously completed a series of portraits of former U.S. presidents. In another recent project, Munn painted all 220 students from the 1965 graduating class of Emerson High School in Union City, NJ. She had found the school's yearbook in 1978, tossed aside in a heap of belongings on a Chelsea sidewalk. The series, named "The Altruist" after the yearbook's title, also includes a video that traces Munn's quest to locate and interview the former students.

See all of Munn's brilliant work on her website, lauriemunn.com.

Images used with kind permission from Laurie Munn

Reader Comments (9)


ppl were blaming the artist because cindy mccain is underweight and has botoxed her face into oblivion?


Wednesday, December 24, 2008 at 4:38 PM | Unregistered CommentereM

Well, when I compare the two paintings, I do think Michelle's is more flattering but NOT in any way that seems deliberate, like the artist planned it a certain way. They're both the same style. I think Cindy has thinner features so maybe they are harder to capture.

Also that "More" cover is one of my all-time favorite Michelle magazine covers. I covet that dress sooo badly.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterJenna

I agree, I don't think it was meant as a slight against Mrs. McCain, like the above post says, both paintings as in the same style

the reaction probably came during the campaign which was heated, and everyone jumped at every little thing

anyways, Mrs O looks fab as always!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008 at 9:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterLayo G

There's a great article from The Huffington Post that goes into more depth about how Mrs.O chose the dress and fought to keep the bow for the More magazine cover shot.

Clearly More got the "knockout image" they were going for, and Laurie Munn found the right inspiration. The portrait is lovely. So vibrant!

Thursday, December 25, 2008 at 12:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterMrs. T

The More magazine cover photo of Michelle Obama, and the Ebony Magazine of Mrs. Obama in pink tweed are my all time favorite photographs of our future first lady.
I think that Mrs. McCain is a strikingly beautiful woman, especially when she had the salt & pepper pixie cut and tweed power suits, but this style of painting would not flatter her because her eye color is made to seem more vibrant and it ended up matching her green blouse. Her beauty just doesn't come accross well in that particular portrait.

Thursday, December 25, 2008 at 12:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterMizzBella

MizzBella, will you post a link to the Mrs. O photo from Ebony (in pink tweed)? Offhand I'm not sure if I'm familiar with that image. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 25, 2008 at 12:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterMrs. T

Mrs. T, I mistakenly spoke of this photo of Mrs. Obama as one from the cover of Ebony Magazine, but it is actually a generic headshot of a young Mrs. Obama that was supposedly taken by the Health Literacy Foundation, and was on the cover of Today's Chicago Woman back in 2005 or 2006. Please excuse my error.


Thursday, December 25, 2008 at 9:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterMizzBella

Oh, no worry at all! I was just afraid I had missed something. It's a lovely photo of Mrs. O.

Thursday, December 25, 2008 at 9:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterMrs. T

I think it's a really cool art project, and a silly controversy.


Monday, December 29, 2008 at 11:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterKristan

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