It has been more than a decade since President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama once again hosted George W Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, for the unveiling of their White House portraits, part of a well -loved Washington who, for decades, has managed to transcend partisan politics.
President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, are set to revive that ritual – after an awkward and unnatural hiatus in the Trump years – as they greet the Obamas today for the big reveal of their front portraits. dozens of friends, family, and staff.
The day marks Mrs. Obama’s first return visit to the White House since leaving in 2017, but the second for Mr. Obama, who earlier this year attended a ceremony marking 12 years of Obamacare.
The White House portrait collection begins with that of George Washington paid for by Congress, with the rest of the collection donated until the mid-20th century, when the White House Historical Association began paying for the paintings.
Obama’s painting is already part of the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection
There are already two very famous portraits of the Obamas that were unveiled to the world in 2018. These were part of the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent exhibit, which includes the only comprehensive collection of presidential portraits in the United States outside of the White House.
For these portraits, Barack Obama chose an artist known for mixing Renaissance motifs with hip-hop culture to paint his official portrait. Kehinde Wiley was commissioned by the Smithsonian Institute to produce the work.
Former first lady Michelle Obama chose Baltimore artist Amy Sherald, known for challenging stereotypes through life-size paintings of African Americans, for her accompanying portrait.
They are the first black artists tasked with producing the artwork that is traditionally produced at the end of each president’s term.
Mr. Wiley, known for his vibrant portrayals of young African Americans against colorful baroque backdrops, is also likely to break with the stylistic convention established by previous presidential portraits.
He has previously depicted subjects such as rappers, the Notorious BIG, LL Cool J and Ice T, in works that reference iconic portraits of powerful Western figures by the Old Masters.
Kim Sajet, the director of the National Portrait Gallery, said at the time that she was “absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald had agreed to create the official portraits of our former president and first lady”.
She added, “Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but more so, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century.”
Olivier O’ConnellSeptember 7, 2022 3:50 p.m.
Why didn’t Donald Trump host the Obamas for a portrait ceremony?
Recent tradition, regardless of party affiliation, is for the current president to warmly welcome his immediate predecessor to the unveiling – as Bill Clinton did for George HW Bush, George W Bush did for Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama did it for young Mr. Bush.
Then there was an unexplained pause when Donald Trump failed to greet Mr. Obama.
Two spokespersons for Mr. Trump did not respond to email requests from The Associated Press to comment on the absence of a ceremony for Mr. Obama and whether any artists are working on portraits of Trump and the former premiere. Lady Melania Trump.
Joe Sommerlad has more details:
Why did Donald Trump block Obama portraits?
Republican hostility meant no painting of the first black president and first lady of the United States had hung in the White House until now
Olivier O’ConnellSeptember 7, 2022 3:28 p.m.
President and first lady greet Obamas for portrait unveiling
The presidential portrait of Barack Obama will be unveiled today at the White House at lunchtime in a ceremony hosted by his former second-in-command, President Joe Biden.
Portraits of the former president and Michelle Obama will be featured in the East Room, as is tradition.
It will be the first time the former first lady has returned to the White House since her husband left office in January 2017.
The former president previously returned in April to mark the 12th anniversary of his signature health care law – and spent more than four hours meeting Mr Biden and greeting White House staff.
We’ll follow the event live and provide insight and history into the White House portrait tradition, and why the Obamas had to wait longer than usual for theirs to be installed in the executive mansion.
Olivier O’ConnellSeptember 7, 2022 3:17 p.m.