In recent decades, the successors of previous presidents and first lady have been responsible for unveiling the official White House portraits of their predecessors. During the time that Donald J. Trump was in office, however, such did not occur with regard to the pictures of Barack and Michelle Obama.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump’s replacement, President Biden, officially revealed the official portraits of former first lady Michelle Obama and former President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House.
Mr. Obama remarked during the event, “It is terrific to be back,” which seemed like a reunion since so many members of his administration had returned to the White House.
Even though their names may not be familiar to the general public, these painters are part of a long-standing practise of portraying former first spouses. Although the paintings themselves are moved around to other rooms, every president who has ever served in the Oval Office has a portrait hanging on the walls of the White House.
Mr. Obama complimented the performers. To enthusiastic applause, he said, “I want to thank Sharon Sprung for capturing everything I adore about Michelle: her elegance, her brilliance, and the fact that she’s wonderful.” I would also want to express my gratitude to Robert McCurdy for tackling a topic that is far more challenging.
In most cases, the unveiling of the portraits takes place within the first year of the president’s immediate successor’s time in office. In the event of President Obama, that person would have been Donald Trump. However, Mr. Trump was not responsible for arranging the event.
The significant deviation from custom was a striking representation of the animosity that existed between the two men. In 2012, while Mr. Obama was still in office, he invited former President George W. Bush to the White House for the unveiling of his picture. “The president transcends those disagreements,” Mr. Obama said, referring to the fact that the two candidates have quite different political philosophies.
It is not quite obvious whether or not Mr. Biden will choose to hold an event for Mr. Trump after his image is finished being painted. At a news conference held on Tuesday, the press secretary for the White House, Karine Jean-Pierre, sidestepped the topic.
Due to the fact that Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump have a long-standing and widely known feud, as well as the fact that the two men could still run against each other in the elections of 2024, it is highly unlikely that they would agree to take part in a celebratory event marking the installation of Mr. Trump’s portrait in its rightful spot in the annals of history.
Many people get the portraits commissioned by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, which were unveiled in 2018, confused with the official White House portraits painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald. President Obama’s portrait was painted by Wiley, and Mrs. Obama’s portrait was painted by Sherald. Those paintings, which have received a lot of praise, have been going across the country.
Mr. McCurdy went on to paint the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, and Toni Morrison, in addition to celebrities such as Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Muhammad Ali. He acquired his bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art and an arts scholarship from Yale University.
Ms. Sprung, who is 69 years old and is from Glen Cove, New York, received her education at the Art Students League, which is also the institution where she has been teaching since 2004. Her sitters have included historical leaders, headmasters, and members of Congress in their many guises as picture subjects.
According to Mr. McLaurin, it is rare for White House pictures to have no props or other background components, which is the case with the portrait that Mr. McCurdy took of President Obama. According to Mr. McCurdy, this was done on purpose and consciously, and he said that he spends anywhere from 12 to 18 months working on his portraits.