Our favorite former First Couple, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, were back at the White House today for the unveiling of their official White House portraits. We first reported on this event in July when no one knew the artists’ names, and the finished portraits were still a mystery. Now, paintings of the 44th President and First Lady will have a permanent place on the White House walls next to images of previous first couples, going back as far as George and Martha Washington. And visitors to the White House will be able to view images of the first Black President and First Lady of the United States.
After the official unveiling, President Obama took time to thank the artists he and Mrs. Obama chose to capture their likenesses. “I want to thank Sharon Sprung for capturing everything I love about Michelle, her grace, her intelligence and the fact that she’s fine,” he said. “Her portrait is stunning.” He added, “And I want to thank Robert McCurdy for taking on a much more difficult subject and doing a great job with mine.”
In addition to painting President Obama, Robert McCurdy has also painted Nelson Mandela, Toni Morrison and Muhammad Ali. In his remarks, President Obama joked about McCurdy’s refusal to hide his gray hairs or make his ears smaller. The audience erupted in laughter when President Obama added that McCurdy also talked him out of wearing a tan suit in his portrait, a dig at the 2014 “scandal” when President Obama was criticized for wearing a tan suit to a news conference.
Since 1965, the White House Historical Association has funded the official portraits of the President and First Lady. Although it is a tradition for previous first couples to come back to the White House for the unveiling, this is the first ceremony since 2012, when former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush came back to view their official portraits.