A little lightness in the White House: Obama painting revealed
Because Trump skipped the presentation of the official presidential portrait of his predecessor, the ritual will be made up for. Obama exudes a touch of light-heartedness in otherwise tense times.
Former US President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama have unveiled their official portraits at the White House. The Obamas returned to the house where they had lived for eight years with their daughters Sasha and Malia for the day for the ceremonial display of the paintings. “It’s great to be back,” said Barack Obama, who served as the first black president in US history from 2009 to 2017. It was his second visit to the White House since leaving office, and his wife Michelle was there for the first time since 2017.
The portraits of former presidents and first ladies are traditionally displayed at the US government headquarters. Usually, the respective incumbent holds a ceremony to present the portrait of his predecessor. Former Republican President Donald Trump, who succeeded Democrat Obama in 2017, broke with this tradition, as well as many other conventions. As a result, the presentation of the Obama portraits took place with a delay – now with Joe Biden as the host, who was his vice president during Obama’s presidency and now sits in the Oval Office himself.
“Welcome home,” Biden said to his ex-boss and his wife. “You will be considered one of the most important Presidents in history, along with one of the most important First Ladies.” Both would have filled their roles with a lot of “grace and class”. Biden said that their two families grew close together during their years in government. He praised Obama’s leadership as president: “We trusted him (…), we believed in him, we relied on him. And I still do.”
The invited guests received the Obamas with much applause. “Thanks for letting us invite some friends to the White House,” the ex-president said to the Bidens. “We’ll try not to trash the house.” Amid the otherwise tense political situation in the country, Barack Obama tried to spread a good mood. The 61-year-old joked a lot and elicited a few laughs from the guests – and a little more enthusiasm than usual for an ordinary appointment at the White House.
When he is asked what he misses most from back then, Obama said he doesn’t talk about the government aircraft Air Force One – “although I do miss Air Force One”. Above all, he missed the many “talented, selfless, idealistic and good people” with whom he had worked in government. He is pleased that many of them have started their own families. “I’m just a little disappointed I haven’t heard of anyone naming their kid Barack – or Michelle.”
Barack Obama visited the White House as a guest in April for the first time since leaving office. Now followed the second visit for the paintings. Barack Obama’s portrait, painted by Robert McCurdy, shows the ex-president photorealistic in a dark suit and gray tie against a light background. “What I love about Robert’s work is that he paints people exactly as they are,” Obama said of his portrait. “He captures every line on your face, every crease in your shirt. You will notice that he refused to hide my gray hair. And refused my request to make my ears smaller.”
Michelle Obama was portrayed in a classic pose by painter Sharon Sprung. Sitting on a red sofa, in a light blue dress. “I am thrilled that this extraordinary work will forever be enshrined as part of our nation’s history,” said Michelle Obama. She emphasized that the New York artist Sprung is now one of the small group of painters who have made a portrait for the White House.