Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama unveiled their official White House portraits on Wednesday.
The portrait painters are Robert McCurdy, who painted the former president, and Sharon Sprung, who painted Michelle Obama.
President Joe Biden said in remarks before the unveiling the portraits will hang in the “sacred space” of the White House “forever,” along with portraits of all the other former presidents and first ladies.
The official portraits were commissioned by the White House Historical Association.
This was the first time Mrs. Obama was at the White House since leaving after two terms on Jan. 20, 2017. This was Obama’s second visit; he earlier came to meet with Biden.
Details on the photos from the Obama Foundation:
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.
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.