Washington – Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama returned to the White House on Wednesday to officially unveil their official White House portraits, revealing paintings that have hung in the White House for years.
President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden hosted the couple for Michelle Obama’s first visit to the White House since her husband left office in 2017. Former President He visited the White House in April To celebrate the anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
“Barack and Michael, welcome home,” said Mr. Biden told Obama on Wednesday. “Come home.”
After unveiling their portraits, Obama said, “It’s great to be back. Thank you very much for your hospitality
Mr. Biden praised his former boss, saying, “Nothing could have prepared me better or more to be President of the United States than eight years by your side, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
Artist Robert McCurdy painted the former president, and Sharon Sprung painted the former first lady.
“I want to thank Sharon Sprung for capturing everything I love about Michelle: her grace, her intelligence, and she’s so good,” Obama said, eliciting laughter and cheers from the audience. “And I want to thank Robert McCurdy for taking on such a difficult subject and doing a fantastic job of mine.”
The portrait of the former president, in the artist’s signature photorealistic style, depicts him in a black suit with a gray tie. A portrait of Mrs. Obama shows her in a blue dress sitting on a red sofa in a red room. His portrait is fully painted in photographs taken by Sprung.
“For me, this day is not about what happened,” Mrs Obama said. “It’s about what might happen. Because a woman like me shouldn’t be next to Jacqueline Kennedy and Dolly Madison. She shouldn’t be living in this house, and she certainly shouldn’t be serving. First Lady.”
A Video Released by the Obama Foundation ahead of its release, McCurdy said the “marathon” process took him about 18 months, while Sprung said he didn’t work on the portrait of Michael Obama for eight or nine months. Both said they had the viewer in mind when they painted.
“I wanted people to walk past the painting and recognize her, or be more curious about her, or read more about her, but get her,” Sprung said in a video about the process.
“The way the painting is constructed is entirely about the viewer,” McCurdy said.
Sprung described painting as a journey.
“I don’t know how my paintings will turn out,” Sprung said. “You follow your instincts the whole time, and I feel confident enough at this point as a painter to do that.”
Presidents usually hosts their predecessors to release their formal portraits, but former President Trump upended that tradition, refusing to welcome the Obamas back to the White House during his tenure. The Obamas hosted a party for former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, at the White House in 2012.
Former presidents and first ladies typically have two official portraits completed upon leaving office. One set hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, and the other enters the collection of the White House Historical Society, which is displayed at the White House. The portraits of Obama in the National Portrait Gallery were completed in 2018.
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