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Obama’s Official White House Portrait Will Not Be Unveiled While Trump Is in Office | artnet News

Breaking with a tradition that goes back more than forty years, President Trump will not welcome his predecessor, Barack Obama, into the East Wing for the grand reveal of his White House portrait. Amid an escalating war of words between the current and former presidents, NBC News reports that neither wants to take part in the ritual. Portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama will therefore likely not be installed until Trump is out of office.

The White House features portraits of every president since George Washington. In modern times, these official artworks are created through a highly specific process: they are commissioned by the White House Historical Association, a privately funded heritage organization, with the artists being selected personally by the former president and first lady. When complete, the Association donates the paintings to the White House, whose curator places them.

Presidents Bush Sr., Clinton, and Bush Jr.'s portraits on display on the White House website, with a photograph in place of Obama's portrait.

Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush’s paintings portraits displayed on the White House website, with a photograph in place of Obama’s portrait.

According to NBC, the artists were selected in early 2017, though because of a confidentiality agreement, details remain unknown. Recent White House portraits have been by John Howard Sanden, who painted both George W. Bush and Laura Bush in 2001; Simmie Knox, who painted Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton; Herbert Adams, who painted George H.W. Bush; and Chas Fagen, who painted Barbara Bush.

(The White House portraits are separate from the official portraits held at Washington, DC’s National Portrait Gallery, where paintings of Obama and his wife Michelle by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have proved a sensation with the public since their unveiling in 2018, and were even supposed to go on a national tour.)

The unveiling customarily happens towards the end of the first term of the president’s successor, and brings the former president’s staff, family, and friends back to the White House to mingle with the current occupants. The Obamas, for instance, welcomed George and Laura Bush in the East Wing for their reveal in 2012. At the time, Obama spoke about overcoming political divides.

President Barack Obama welcomes former President George W. Bush and Former First Lady Laura Bush back to the White House to unveil his formal Presidential portrait that will hang form this point on in the White House. Photo by ImageCatcher News Service/Corbis via Getty Images.

President Barack Obama welcomes former President George W. Bush and Former First Lady Laura Bush back to the White House to unveil his formal Presidential portrait that will hang form this point on in the White House. Photo by ImageCatcher News Service/Corbis via Getty Images.

“George, I will always remember the gathering you hosted for all the living former Presidents before I took office, your kind words of encouragement,” Obama said at the time. “Plus, you also left me a really good TV sports package.”

Bush had his own wishes for Obama at the 2012 ceremony. “I am also pleased, Mr. President, that when you are wandering these halls as you wrestle with tough decisions, you will now be able to gaze at this portrait and ask, what would George do?”

In a virtual commencement address on Saturday, Obama seemed to compare Trump to a little kid. Trump has accused the ex-president of being party to unnamed crimes under the heading of “Obamagate.”


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