Barack and Michelle Obama Return to White House for Their Portraits Unveiling

Robert McCurdy painted the former president, while Sharon Sprung painted the former first lady.

Barack and Michelle Obama have returned to the White House for a very special reason. On Wednesday, the former president and former first lady unveiled their official White House portraits in the East Room. 

Robert McCurdy painted the portrait of Barack, who is seen standing tall while wearing a black suit, a gray tie and an American flag pin. "What I love about Robert's work is that he paints people exactly the way they are, for better or worse," Barack quipped at the unveiling. "You'll note that he refused to hide any of my gray hairs, refused my request to make my ears smaller. He also talked me out of wearing a tan suit."

As for Michelle's portrait, hers was painted by Sharon Sprung. The artwork shows the former first lady seated on a sofa in the Red Room while wearing a bright blue dress with an off-the-shoulder sleeve.

Barack was clearly a fan of his wife's portrait, telling the crowd, "I want to thank Sharon Sprung for capturing everything I love about Michelle. Her grace, her intelligence -- and the fact that she's fine."

In all seriousness, Barack took note of the importance of the portraits. "When future generations walk these halls and look up at these portraits, I hope that they get a better, honest sense of who Michelle and I were," he said. "And I hope that they leave with a deeper understanding that if we could make it here, maybe they can too."

Michelle also noted, "Traditions like this matter, not just for those of us who hold these positions, but for everyone participating in and watching our democracy."

She added, "What we are seeing is a reminder that there is a place for everyone in this country. Because as Barack said, if the two of us can end up on the walls of the most famous address in the world, then … it is so important for every young kid who is doubting themselves to believe that they can too. That is what this country is about. It’s not about blood or pedigree or wealth."

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
White House Historical Association via Getty Images
White House Historical Association via Getty Images

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden happily welcomed their friends back to the White House, as the White House Historical Association presented them with the portraits. During the ceremony, the commander-in-chief called Barack "one of the most consequential presidents in history."

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

The ceremony marked the first time the Obamas were together at the White House since 2017.