Listen to this story
Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama returned to the White House on Wednesday for the official unveiling of their White House portraits.
It has been more than a decade since the Obamas welcomed George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, back for the unveiling of their White House portraits as part of a longstanding tradition. This is the couple’s first joint visit since they left in 2017.
“It is great to be back,” Mr. Obama said at the ceremony. Robert McCurdy painted his portrait, and Michelle Obama’s portrait was painted by Sharon Sprung.
The former president appeared to approve of the final results.
“I want to thank Sharon Sprung for capturing everything I love about Michelle: her grace, her intelligence, and the fact that she’s fine,” he said. “And I want to thank Robert McCurdy for taking on a much more difficult subject.”
Former president Donald Trump did not honor the longstanding custom during his brief term.
When asked at a press briefing on Tuesday whether President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden would host a similar event for The Trumps, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, replied: “We defer those questions to the White House Historical Association. They lead the process on official portraits for both presidents and their spouses. So that question lies with them.”
In a recent interview with PEOPLE, the president of the White House Historial Association spoke about the lengthy process.
“More important than the time that it took to create the portraits is the time that the portraits will be shared with the American public for generations to come,” Stewart McLaurin explained. “That is really the significance of these portraits, not to be rushed, but to be special and perfect for that president and first lady.”