The White House is going to get a little Blacker next month. On September 7, former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama will return to the presidential palace to unveil their Official Presidential Portraits to the rest of the country.
The new presidential portraits are not to be confused with the Obama’s National Portrait Gallery paintings that have been making their way to museums around the country. Those colorful paintings, which were the work of Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, made their way to museums around the country before taking up permanent residence at the Smithsonian National Gallery. The artists for the official presidential portraits are selected after the President and First Lady leave the White House and are kept a secret until the official reveal.
My heart broke a little in 2017 when the Obamas left to make way for the next First Family. But now they will have a permanent place on the White House walls.
According to Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association, the presidential portraits have helped solidify former Presidents’ memory with country long before social media. “These original portraits were done long before we had Instagram and Facebook, so the portraits themselves were the image of that president and first lady that would be remembered in the public’s eye,” he said. “Now, a president has millions of digital photographs of their presidency, but in the early years of our country, it was these portraits that would show us what these presidents and first ladies actually looked like.”
“Every president is acutely aware that we are just temporary residents. We’re renters here. We’re charged with the upkeep until our lease runs out,” President Obama said when former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush’s portraits were revealed. “But we also leave a piece of ourselves in this place, and today, with the unveiling of the portraits next to me, President and Mrs. Bush will take their place alongside the men and women who built this country and those who worked to perfect it.”