February 2, 2023

Barack and Michelle Obama make first joint return to the White House for unveiling of official portraits

President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, Former President Barack Obama and Former First Lady Michelle Obama at the Unveiling of Official Obama White House Portraits at the White House in Washington D.C. on September 7, 2022. Photo: White House
President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, Former President Barack Obama and Former First Lady Michelle Obama at the Unveiling of Official Obama White House Portraits at the White House in Washington D.C. on September 7, 2022. Photo: White House

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and First Lady Jill Biden on Wednesday presented the official portraits of former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, painted by Robert McCurdy and Sharon Sprung, respectively.

The portraits and the artists who painted them were introduced during a White House ceremony hosted in the East Room of the White House. The White House Historical Association acquired and commissioned the official portraits.

Additional details on the paintings and artists are included below. 

A video interview with the artists is included HERE

Digital photos of the portraits can be found on the White House Historical Association website atapproximately 1:30PM ET.

BARACK OBAMA 

President Barack Obama, dressed in a black suit with a grey tie, stands 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. It is his preference to work from images rather than sketches completed during sittings. Robert McCurdy (b.1952) spends at least a year on each of his photo realist portraits. His meticulously rendered works capture every minute detail, down to the fibers on his subjects’ clothing. The stark white backgrounds of his portraits allow the viewer to establish a relationship with the subject; the focus shifts from the celebrity-status of the individual to the viewer’s direct response to that individual as a human being. The composition also allows the viewer to establish their own meaning and interaction. McCurdy’s commissions include many notable subjects; Toni Morrison, Jane Goodall, Muhammad Ali, and Neil Armstrong are among his sitters.

MICHELLE OBAMA 

First Lady Michelle Obama 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. Sharon Sprung (b.1953) has taught at both the Art Students League of New York and the National Academy School for the past 30 years. Her paintings and portraits have been exhibited since the late 1970s, including many one-person shows in New York City. Through her work on the small details of her subjects, such as their eyes, nose, or lips, she gets to know her sitters. Her paintings are jewel-like in their color palettes, a credit that she gives to her use of Vasari handmade paint. By methodically manipulating the layers of paint, she works to mimic the complexity of real life in her portrait compositions.’


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