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Barack and Michelle Obama's Portraits Unveiled during White House Ceremony

Traditionally unveiled during their successor's first term, the Obama's official portraits are finally revealed during a ceremony at the White House.
Barack and Michelle Obama's Portraits Unveiled during White House Ceremony

Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, returned to the White House on Wednesday for the unveiling of their official portraits, hosted by Joe Biden more than five years after the 44th president left office, reports the Guardian.

Barack and Michelle Obama return to White House for unveiling of portraits (Guardian)

Excerpt from the Guardian: Large, formal portraits of presidents and first ladies adorn walls, hallways and rooms throughout the White House. Customarily, a former president returns for the unveiling during the tenure of his successor. But the Obamas, who have remained popular since leaving power, did not have their ceremony while Donald Trump was in office. The former president is shown "dressed in a black suit with a grey tie, standing prominently at the center of the canvas". The photorealistic portrait was painted entirely from photographs that were taken by the artist, Robert McCurdy, during a short photo session. The former first lady "wears a formal blue dress and is seated on a sofa in the Red Room. Her portrait was also painted entirely from photographs that were taken by artist Sharon Sprung in various locations on the State Floor of the White House.
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According to the New York Times, Mr. Obama 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," he said, to cheers. "And I want to thank Robert McCurdy for taking on a much more difficult subject."

Official Obama Portraits Are Finally Unveiled at the White House (New York Times)

Excerpt from the New York Times: President Biden was joined by his wife, Jill, for the formal unveiling in the East Room, where they made clear their affection for the Obamas. "Welcome home!" Mr. Biden, who had served as Mr. Obama’s vice president, told the Obama family in a warm greeting. The portraits are typically unveiled during the first term of a president’s immediate successor. In Mr. Obama’s case, that would have been Mr. Trump. But Mr. Trump did not schedule the ceremony. The break from tradition was a remarkable reflection of the antipathy between the two men. When Mr. Obama was president, he hosted former President George W. Bush to unveil his portrait in 2012. Mr. Obama noted that, despite their very different political ideologies, "the presidency transcends those differences."
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"Jill and I have been waiting to host events at the White House for a long time coming out of the pandemic, and it’s fitting that we can do that now by unveiling the portraits of two great friends, two great Americans," Biden said at the ceremony, writes Politico.

Official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama unveiled at White House (Politico)

Excerpt from Politico: Biden opened his speech at Wednesday’s ceremony with praise for the Obamas and their legacy, calling Barack Obama "one of the most consequential presidents in our history" and Michelle Obama "one of the most consequential first ladies." Obama returned the praise for Biden in his speech just after the portraits were unveiled, calling him "a man who became a true partner and a good friend. Joe, it is now America’s good fortune to have you as president," Obama said. "You have guided us through some perilous times. You’ve built on and gone beyond the work we all did together." When asked whether Biden would invite the man he’s called a danger to democracy, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre punted in the press briefing on Tuesday. "We defer those questions to the White House Historical Association. They lead the process on official portraits for both presidents and their spouses."
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