Former President and First Lady Obama to unveil official White House portraits

First-term presidents have traditionally hosted the East Room ceremony for their predecessors.

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Barack and Michelle Obama will return to the White House in several weeks for the unveiling of their official White House portraits, People reports.

The Obamas will appear with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden for the ceremony. “On September 7, the President and Dr. Biden will host President and Mrs. Obama for the unveiling ceremony for their official White House portraits and that will be very exciting,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed at Thursday’s press briefing, CNN reports. 

First-term presidents have traditionally hosted the East Room ceremony for their predecessors, no matter their political party. As theGrio previously reported, former President Donald Trump refused to unveil Obama‘s portrait at the White House, breaking a decades-long tradition. After Biden took office, the event was further delayed because of the COVID pandemic.

Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama will return to the White House on Sept. 7 for the unveiling of their official White House portrait. (Credit: YouTube Originals)

Obama hosted former President George W. Bush‘s portrait unveiling in 2012 and Bush did the same for former President Bill Clinton in 2004, CNN reported.

“Every president is acutely aware that we are just temporary residents. We’re renters here. We’re charged with the upkeep until our lease runs out,” President Obama said at the Bushes’ ceremony, according to People. “But we also leave a piece of ourselves in this place, and today, with the unveiling of the portraits next to me, President and Mrs. Bush will take their place alongside the men and women who built this country and those who worked to perfect it.”

The White House portraits are not to be confused with the ones unveiled several years ago at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, which are currently on an extended tour of the country, according to CNN.

The National Portrait Gallery works, theGrio reported, are the first official portraits of a president and first lady created by Black artists. The former first lady’s portrait is the work of Amy Sherald, while Kehinde Wiley is the artist behind the former president’s portrait.

As People reported, the artists selected to create the White House portraits are not revealed until the unveiling. Further, they are under no time constraints to complete them.

The official portrait of former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama were unveiled in 2018 at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The artists are Kehinde Wiley (president) and Amy Sherald (first lady). (Photo: Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald)

“We don’t put a timeframe on it. We don’t call the artist and say, ‘How’s it going? How are you doing? When are you going to have it done’?” Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association, explained. “It just is an organic process that has to take its course. And then when everything’s ready and everything’s done, the moment is right.”

The portrait of the Obamas will be placed on the walls of the White House in the fall. McLaurin described it as “extraordinary and very special.”

“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,” he said. “That is really the significance of these portraits, not to be rushed, but to be special and perfect for that president and first lady.”

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