United States: Barack and Michelle Obama will hang their official portraits at the White House

Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama are expected this Wednesday at the White House, received by President Joe Biden for a ceremony during which the official portraits of the former president and the former First Lady will be unveiled.

It’s a tradition at the White House. This Wednesday, Joe Biden is due to receive Barack Obama on the 44the President of the United States, as well as his wife Michelle Obama, to unveil their official portraits which will be displayed in the presidential residence.

The visit also marks Michelle Obama’s first visit to the White House since January 2017, when her husband left the presidency. As for Barack Obama, he only returned to the White House once, last April, to raise the subject of access to healthcare with the current president.

According to tradition, the President-in-Office invites his predecessor

While the ceremony for the presentation of official portraits has taken many forms throughout history, today it is an appointment that transcends partisan politics, since it is generally the incumbent president who invites his predecessor to the ceremony. The first time a former president and his wife were invited to the White House for this event dates back to 1978. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter then invited Gerald R. Ford and Betty Ford. Since then Bill Clinton has done it for George HW Bush, George W. Bush for Bill Clinton and Obama for George W. Bush.

This tradition had precisely been interrupted under the mandate of Donald Trump, who had not organized a ceremony for the Obama couple. The last ceremony therefore dates from 2012, when Barack and Michelle Obama had invited George W. Bush and Laura Bush for the inauguration of their portraits.

The White House Historical Association funds the portraits

The White House now has the portraits of all the presidents of the United States and of all the First Ladies who have passed through its walls, after having bought paintings from certain artists or collectors. Since the mid-20th century, the White House Historical Association has funded official paintings.

For these portraits, the former President and the former First Lady choose the artist of their choice, and give him advice or indications on how they wish to be represented.

Millions of visitors come to the White House each year to admire these portraits, although some of them are no longer on display, but preserved in the archives of the residence.

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