The image of President Obama was painted by Robert McCurdy and the portrait of Michelle Obama was painted by Sharon Sprung.
McCurdy told the White House Historical Association in an interview that his process focused on working out a photo of the former president. Photorealistic image of the former president in a black suit with a gray tie, pictured against a minimalist white background – a signature of McCurdy’s artworks. McCurdy said that his painting takes at least a year to complete.
The former First Lady was painted by Sprung, who describes her work as “contemporary realism”. The image shows Michelle Obama in a blue dress sitting on a sofa in the Red Room of the White House. The artwork was drawn from photographs taken at various locations on the State Floor of the White House.
President Joe Biden used Wednesday’s ceremony to mark Obama’s achievements at the White House.
“Together,” Biden said, the former first couple “made history.”
“You both created hope for the millions who were left behind for so long — and that matters. You both did it with such grace and with such class. You did great and enduring for the American people.” Dreamed of victory, helped lift their burden. Blessings of hope,” he continued. “It’s greatly underestimated … just hopeful. It’s the gift of Obama’s presidency to the country and history.”
Wednesday’s ceremony in the East Room marked a rare occasion for a celebration between two presidential administrations inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden called one of administration officials past and present – In both from the unique vantage point of serving.
It’s the same room that Obama presented Biden with a surprise Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2017, a tearful ceremony that reflected the two men’s deep mutual respect. Officials have said that the two prefer to maintain their relationship in public, but there is a limit to their friendship.
WHHA President Stewart McLaurin told CNN that the COVID-19 pandemic played a factor in the timing of the unveiling. The WHHA, a non-profit organization, facilitates and funds the making of portraits.
“Covid affected us two and a half years ago, and I think it’s important to reveal these (pictures) at a time when the public has access to and can see the White House,” McLaurin said.
While there are no hard and fast rules for when a White House portrait should be unveiled, the ceremonies are often hosted by the former president’s immediate successor. And when in office, President Donald Trump never held a ceremony for portraits of Obama.
Obama through the eyes of an artist
Details about the pieces to be unveiled on Wednesday were kept a tight secret, with artists and art movers signing confidentiality agreements to keep things under wraps ahead of the big day.
But Obama has often used art as a tool to express his tastes, so it should come as no surprise that his White House portraits are doing the same.
McCurdy’s depiction of the former president is minimal, except for the traditional props usually attached to a portrait of the president, such as a desk or bookcase, for a completely blank background.
Sprung’s interpretation shows that the former First Lady takes a brief moment to relax inside one of the White House’s most formal rooms. Unlike the portraits of her predecessors, Michelle Obama is wearing a strapless gown in her portrait – perhaps a marker of the nation’s evolving style.
In her portrait, the former first lady is wearing a custom Jason Wu Collection gown, a person familiar with the details told CNN. Wu is a full-circle choice of designers for Obama, and she designed both of his inaugural gowns. Obama’s choice of Woo Back essentially launched his career as a globally recognized fashion designer.
“There’s going to be some evolution in these pictures over time… and I think it’s going to be really exciting,” McLaurin said in a preview of Obama’s upcoming pictures. “I think it’s going to be some magical moment. I think it’s going to be an evolution of art.”
He continued, “We’re now moving into the first third of the 21st century. And I think in the minds of most Americans, we think of portraits of the president with these very traditional, 19th-century look-and-feel images.” But art and taste in art evolve and change.”
While living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Obama opted to highlight a number of contemporary and modern artists.
Amy Sherald, who painted the Smithsonian portrait of the first lady, challenged conventions about race by painting the skin of her figures brown. Kehinde Wiley, who portrayed the former president, re-imagined old master paintings with dark subjects.
Traditionally, the two latest sets of portraits of the president are kept in the Cross Hall of the White House – although Trump chose to move the portraits of Bush and Clinton to the old family dining room – which is essentially their White House storage. was used as a room. Home- After a quarrel with both the families.
Biden moved portraits of Bush and portraits of Clinton back to Cross Hall, but with a new portrait of Obama, Clinton may have to move soon.
Wednesday Ceremony at the White House
Obama’s return to the White House marks a rare moment for current and past administrations and looks at the president’s legacy.
Unlike the 2012 unveiling, Wednesday’s event hosted mostly attendees from the same party – some attendees had ties to both administrations.
Obama family, friends, former cabinet members and top administration staff attended the unveiling.
Michelle Obama’s mother Marion Robinson, who lived in the White House during her presidency, attended the ceremony.
Other expected attendees include former Obama chief of staff (and current US ambassador to Japan) Rahm Emanuel, former senior adviser David Axelrod, former Treasury secretaries Jack Lew and Timothy Geithner, former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, former Attorney General Eric Holder was involved. , former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, former US Office of Management and Budget Director Sean Donovan and former White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
Biden and Obama formed a close relationship while serving in office together, but their friendship has limits. While they speak occasionally, they are not in contact daily or weekly, people familiar with the matter said.
After serving two terms under Obama, Biden has sometimes distanced himself from his predecessor. Officials have said that there is also a lot of competition between the two men.
Their history, while one of partnership, is also colored by various little things, real or perceived, that still remain.
Obama declined to endorse Biden over other Democrats in the 2020 primary, with both men insisting a move was necessary to allow for a true contest within the party. Four years ago, Obama looked to Hillary Clinton as his Democratic successor instead of Biden, who had chosen not to run while battling the death of his son.
Trump Portraits Are Ahead
The White House Historical Association is in the “early stages” of portrait processes for former President Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump, McLaurin said.
“The focus is on specific artists who will likely be making his paintings,” McLaurin said.
A source familiar with the situation told CNN that talks began over the past six months about the portrait at Mar-a-Lago — Trump’s Florida residence — and the former president recently sat down for photos. However, it is not clear whether Trump posed for a White House portrait artist or posed exclusively for portraits.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to say whether Biden would extend an invitation to Trump whether his portrait should be completed during the Biden administration.
According to Smithsonian’s chief spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas, Trump’s Political Action Committee donated $650,000 to the Smithsonian Institution in July to help underwrite Trump’s paintings.
The donation from Trump’s Save America leadership PAC marks the first time that funding has come from a political action committee since the institution began raising private funds for portraits of the president – a practice that has been followed by portraits involving former President George H.W. Bush, St. started with. Thomas said.
St. Thomas said another private donation of $100,000 is also helping pay for the costs associated with the portrait. A total of $750,000 will go to artists’ fees, shipping, framing, installation and events.
Explanation: This story has been updated to clarify where President Donald Trump’s portraits of President George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were during their time in the White House.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Kate Bennett, Fredreka Schouten, Gabby Orr, Betsy Klein and Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.