The history-making portraits of the Obamas stand in contrast to those of other US presidents and their spouses hung on the White House walls, depicting the first Black President and first lady through the perspectives of contemporary artists working outside many of the conventions of traditional political portraiture.
President Obama’s image was painted by Robert McCurdy and Michelle Obama’s portrait was painted by Sharon Sprung.
McCurdy told the White House Historical Association in an interview that his process focused on working off of a photograph of the former President. The photorealistic image of the former President, dressed in a black suit with a gray tie, is painted against a minimal white backdrop — a signature of McCurdy’s artworks. McCurdy said his paintings take at least a year to complete.
The former first lady’s portrait was painted by Sprung, who describes her work as “contemporary realism.” The image depicts Michelle Obama in a blue dress, seated on a sofa in the Red Room of the White House. The artwork was painted from photographs taken in different locations on the White House’s State Floor.
The long-awaited return of a White House tradition
Wednesday’s ceremony in the East Room marked a rare occasion for a celebration among two presidential administrations, where President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden convened a who’s who of administration officials past and present — from the unique vantage point of having served in both.
The pieces, which will hang inside the White House for decades to come, are the first official portraits added to the White House Collection since then-President Obama held a bipartisan unveiling ceremony for George W. Bush and Laura Bush in 2012.
Biden used the unveiling ceremony to reflect on the Obamas’ accomplishments in the White House, saying that the former first couple “made history.”
“You both generated hope for millions of people who were left behind for so long — and it matters. You both did it with such grace and such class. You dreamed big and secured lasting wins for the American people, helping lift their burden with a blessing of hope,” he continued. “It’s so underestimated … just having hope. This is the gift of the Obama presidency to the country and to history.”
The former President subsequently led a standing ovation for Biden, saying in the East Room, “Thanks to your decency and thanks to your strength — maybe most of all thanks to your faith in democracy and the American people — the country’s better off than when you took office. And we should all be deeply grateful for that.”
Stewart McLaurin, the president of the WHHA, told CNN that the Covid-19 pandemic played a factor in the timing …….