The official portraits of the Obamas have been revealed in a ceremony that marks that first time the couple have been back to the White House since their presidency.
Both Barack and Michelle Obama were in attendance for the reveal of their official portraits along with current president Joe Biden.
It’s the first time in over 10 years that a sitting president has invited a former presidential couple back for the age-old tradition, after Donald Trump failed to invite his predecessor for the occasion.
Barack’s portrait was painted by Robert McCurdy and Michelle’s by Sharon Sprung.
McCurdy spoke to the Obama Foundation and detailed his thought process behind Barack’s portrait.
“The subject ultimately for me was the idea of the gaze — two people looking directly at each other with nothing else to load the narrative,” he said.
“The painting is not telling the story of Barack Obama. It’s telling the story of the relationship of the viewer with this particular person. And that’s a two-way street.”
Sprung also offered her take on Michelle’s portrait which took 18 months to create.
“I wanted people to pass by the painting and recognize her, or be more curious about her, or to read more about her, but to get her,” she said.
The Obamas thanked the artists for capturing a side of them that people may not know.
“When future generations walk these halls and look up at these portraits, I hope they get a better honest sense of who Michelle and I were. And I hope they leave with a deeper understanding that if we could make it here, maybe they can, too. They can do remarkable things, too,” Barack Obama said.
Barack praised Sprung for capturing Michelle’s “grace, her intelligence- and the fact that she’s fine” while jokingly saying that McCurdy managed to get all his flaws including his grey hairs and big ears.
Biden issued praise for his former boss and welcomed Michelle and Barack back “home”.
“There are few people I have known with more integrity, more decency and more courage than Barack Obama,” he said.
“Nothing could have prepared more for being president of the United States than being by your side for eight years.”