Barack and Michelle Obama returned to the White House on Wednesday (September 7th) to unveil their official presidential portraits. The former president and FLOTUS were welcomed by President Joe Biden and his wife Jill. (At one point, President Biden, who served as Obama’s Vice President, said “Welcome home!”)
Up until today, it was not announced who the identity of the artists would be. The artists were Robert McCurdy, who painted Barack Obama, and Sharon Sprung, who painted Michelle, who is wearing a blue gown by Jason Wu.
These will be the official portraits displayed in the White House.
During the unveiling, Obama was quippy as ever as he praised the artists:
“I want to thank Sharon Sprung for capturing everything I love about Michelle: her grace, her intelligence, and the fact that she’s fine… And I want to thank Robert McCurdy for taking on a much more difficult subject.”
What’s interesting here is that, typically, the presidential portraits are usually unveiled during the first term of a president’s immediate successor. In 2012, Obama unveiled George W. Bush’s. However, the former president, Donald Trump, never scheduled the ceremony. (There might be some bad blood there.)
It is unclear if Biden will unveil Trump’s portrait. Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, was asked about this yesterday. She gave a very diplomatic answer, saying:
“We defer those questions to the White House Historical Association… They lead the process on official portraits for both presidents and their spouses. So that question lies with them.”
This is the second portrait to feature the Obamas. In 2018, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery unveiled their Obama portraits, which were painted by two black artists, Kehinde Wiley who painted President Obama, and Amy Sherald, who painted First Lady Obama. Those paintings reflected the respective artists’ sensibilities a little more, while the official portraits are more conservative.
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