Obamas Return to White House, Unveil Portraits

Tradition was skipped during Trump administration
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2022 1:49 PM CDT
Obamas Return to White House for Portrait Ceremony
Former President Barack Obama kisses his wife Michelle Obama after they unveiled their official White House portraits during a ceremony for the unveiling in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

For the first time since 2012, a former president has returned to the White House for the unveiling of an official portrait. Barack and Michelle Obama were invited to the White House for a Wednesday ceremony in the East Room, where the public saw their portraits for the first time, CNN reports. In April Barack Obama made his first trip to the White House in more than five years. This was Michelle Obama's first time inside the building since her husband left office. Barack Obama selected artist Robert McCurdy to paint his portrait and Michelle Obama chose artist Sharon Sprung, the AP reports.

In recent decades, it has been a tradition for the president to invite their predecessor for the unveiling of their official portrait—Obama invited George W. Bush and Laura Bush to the White House in 2012, Bush hosted Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton in 2004, and Clinton invited George HW Bush and Barbara Bush to a ceremony in 1995. Donald Trump didn't invite Obama, but Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association, tells NPR that there's no set protocol for the timing of the unveiling. "Perhaps the most classic example was the Kennedy portraits [which] were not revealed until the Nixon presidency, and even so they were done so quietly," McLaurin says

McLaurin says the Obama portraits have been completed for an undisclosed amount of time; the White House Historical Association is in the early stages of the portrait processes for Donald Trump and Melania Trump. The Obama portraits will hang in the Cross Hall of the White House, the traditional site for recent presidential portraits. CNN reports that Trump moved the Clinton and George W. Bush portraits into another room that was used mainly for storage, but Biden returned them to Cross Hall. (More Barack Obama stories.)

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