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Barack and Michelle Obama unveil new photos of the White House

The Obama family photos are unlike any other in the White House collection in style and content.

Barack Obama and his wife Michelle have returned to the White House to unveil their official portraits, more than five years after the former US president left office.

“Barack and Michelle, welcome home,” President Joe Biden said Wednesday, before inviting the Obama family to the podium to reveal the photos, being met with applause and some gasps from the crowd assembled for the event.

Artist Robert McCurdy places the gray-suited former president at the center of his canvas, in a photorealistic white background reminiscent of earlier portraits of Toni Morrison and Nelson Mandela.

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The former first lady in a blue dress in the Red Room of the White House, in a painting by Brooklyn artist Sharon Sprung.

“It’s great to be back,” Obama said when it was his turn to speak, praising Biden — who served as vice president — as someone who became a “true partner and true friend.”

“As future generations walk down these halls and look at these photos, I hope they have an honest sense of who Michelle and I are,” Obama said. “I hope they leave with a deeper understanding that if we can make it here, maybe they can too.”

Usually, the former president returns for the unveiling during his successor tenure, but the administration of Republican President Donald Trump has not held a party for the Obama family.

Trump, prior to his 2016 election victory and succeeding Obama, was a longtime supporter of the Birther movement that incorrectly suggested that Obama was not born in the United States and should not be president.

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Biden and First Lady Jill Biden invited the Obama family to their former home. This was Michelle Obama’s first visit since her husband’s presidency ended in January 2017. Obama visited himself in April to help celebrate the anniversary of the major health care law he signed.

The Obama family photos do not look like any other photos in the collection to which they will be added, both in style and in content.

McCurdy, the artist Obama chose to paint his portrait, said his “abstract” style of work helps create a “meeting” between the person in the painting and the person looking at it.

As McCurdy likes to present his subjects without any facial expressions and standing against a white background, this is how the former president’s portrait was drawn.

Barack and Michelle Obama
Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama at the unveiling ceremony [Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

McCurdy told the White House Historical Society in the latest edition of the “1600 Sessions” podcast.

“We are here to create an encounter between the viewer and the sitter.”

McCurdy works with a photograph of his subjects drawn from hundreds of photographs. He spends 1 to 18 months on each photo and said he knows it’s over “when he stops bothering me.”

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A portrait of Obama is due to be displayed in the Great Hall of the White House, the traditional facade of portraits of the last two presidents. There are currently pictures of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush hanging there.

Meanwhile, a photo of Michelle Obama with her ancestors is likely to be placed along the hallway on the ground floor of the White House, joining Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.

Both McCurdy and Sprung said it’s been difficult to keep their work on the photos secret: McCurdy said it wouldn’t have been a problem “if it hadn’t lasted so long,” while Sprung said she had to turn the photo up to the wall whenever someone came into her studio in New York. .

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