Official portraits of former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama were unveiled in their presence during a glittering ceremony at the White House in Washington on September 7.
Apart from Mr. Obama and Ms. Michelle Obama, the ceremony was attended by President Joe Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris among others.
Mr. Biden during the ceremony called Mr. Obama and Ms. Michelle Obama as very close to the hearts of American people.
“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, fitting that we can do that now by unveiling the portraits of two dear friends and two great Americans who are still held very tightly in the hearts of the American people, portraits that are going to hang in the walls of this sacred place, the people’s house, forever, and a reminder of all here and now for those to come to power that hope and change matters,” Mr. Biden said during the ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
The portraits were acquired and commissioned by the White House Historical Association, a tradition the association has undertaken since 1965.
And for the first time, the official names of the artists have been revealed — Robert McCurdy, who painted President Obama’s portrait, and Sharon Sprung, the artist behind Ms. Obama’s portrait.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Obama said that it is America’s good fortune to have Mr. Biden as the President.
“You have guided us through some perilous times. You’ve built on and gone beyond the work we all did together to expand health care, to fight climate change, to advance social justice, and to promote economic fairness,” he said amidst applause.
Mr. Obama said their portraits have a special significance, because as they will hang in the White House alongside portraits of other Presidents and first ladies dating back to George and Martha.
“So it was important to find the right people to paint them,” he said.
“I want to thank Sharon Sprung for capturing everything I love about Michelle. Her grace, her intelligence, and the fact that she’s fine. Her portrait is stunning. And I want to thank Robert McCurdy for taking on a much more difficult subject and doing a fantastic job with mine,” Mr. Obama said praising the painters.
He reminded the guests of the great painting works of Mr. Robert McCurdy.
“Robert is known for his paintings of public figures: Toni Morrison, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali. But what I love about Robert’s work is that he paints people exactly the way they are. For better or worse. He captures every wrinkle on your face, every crease in your shirt,” he said.
In the portrait Mr. Obama, dressed in a black suit with a grey tie, stands prominently at the centre of the canvas.
The photorealistic portrait was painted entirely from photographs that were taken by the artist, Mr. Robert McCurdy, during a short photo session.
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 Ms. Sharon Sprung in various locations on the State Floor of the White House.
Ms. Sharon Sprung 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.