Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama returned to the White House Wednesday, reuniting with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden to unveil their official portraits and introduce the artists behind them. The ceremony returned to the White House after a 10-year hiatus.
For his portrait, the former president selected Robert McCurdy as the artist. McCurdy, an artist and photographer known for his hyperrealistic paintings of several well-known figures, including Toni Morrison, the Dalai Lama and Jeff Bezos. The portrait unveiled Wednesday of a photo-realistic image of Obama in a black suit with a grey tie against a stark white background, was painted from photographs that McCurdy took of Obama. Former President Obama said: “When future generations walk these halls and look up at these portraits, I hope they get a better and honest sense of who Michelle and I were and I hope they leave with a deeper understanding that if we could make it here, maybe they can too. They can do remarkable things too.”
For her portrait, the former first lady selected Sharon Sprung as the artist. Sprung also worked off photographs she took at the White House to paint Obama in a blue dress, seated on a sofa in the Red Room. The former first lady said the day was not about her or the images, but illustrating what is possible in America: “And as much as some folks might want us to believe that that story has lost some of its shine, that division and discrimination and everything else might have dimmed its light, I still know, deep in my heart, that what we share as my husband continues to say is so much bigger than what we don’t. Our democracy is so much stronger than our differences.”
President Biden said of Obama: “There are a few people that I’ve ever known with more integrity, decency, and moral courage than Barack Obama. Mr. President, nothing could’ve prepared me better or more to become President of the United States than being by your side for eight years and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
Editorial credit: Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com