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Big reveal: Biden to greatly help unveil Obama White House portrait

WASHINGTON (AP) Its been greater than a decade since President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, welcomed back George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, for the unveiling of these White House portraits, section of a beloved Washington tradition that for many years were able to transcend partisan politics.

President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, are set to regenerate that ritual after an awkward and anomalous gap in the Trump years if they host the Obamas on Wednesday for the big reveal of these portraits before scores of friends, family and staff.

The Obama paintings won’t appear to be any in the White House portrait collection to that they will undoubtedly be added. These were Americas first Black president and first lady.

The ceremony may also mark Michelle Obamas first stop by at the White House since Obamas presidency ended in January 2017, and only the next visit for Barack Obama. He was at the White House in April to mark the 12th anniversary of medical care law he signed in 2010.

Portrait ceremonies often give past presidents a chance to showcase their comedic timing.

I’m pleased that my portrait brings a fascinating symmetry to the White House collection. It now starts and ends with a George W, Bush quipped at his ceremony in 2012.

Bill Clinton joked in 2004 that a lot of of that time period, till you obtain your picture hung such as this, the only real artists that draw you’re cartoonists.

Recent tradition, regardless of the party affiliation, has already established the existing president genially hosting his immediate predecessor for the unveiling as Clinton did for George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush did for Clinton and Obama did for younger Bush.

Then there is an unexplained pause when Donald Trump didn’t host Obama.

Two spokespeople for Trump didn’t react to emailed requests for touch upon having less a ceremony for Obama, and whether artists will work on portraits of Trump and former first lady Melania Trump.

The White House portrait collection starts with George Washington, Americas first president. Congress bought his portrait.

Other portraits of early presidents and first ladies often found the White House as gifts. Because the middle of the final century, the White House Historical Association has covered the paintings.


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The initial portraits financed by the association were of Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson, and John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, said Stewart McLaurin, president of the private, nonprofit organization established by first lady Kennedy.

Before presidents and first ladies leave office, the association explains the portrait process. The former president and first lady pick the artist or artists, and provide help with how they wish to be portrayed.

It certainly involves how that president and first lady see themselves, McLaurin said within an interview with The Associated Press.

The collection includes an iconic, full-length portrait of Washington that adorns the East Room. It’s the only item still in the White House that has been in the executive mansion in November 1800 when John Adams and Abigail Adams became the initial president and first lady to call home in the White House.

Years later, first lady Dolley Madison saved Gilbert Stuarts portrait of Washington from almost certain ruin. She had White House staff remove it of the town before advancing British forces burned the mansion in 1814. The painting happened in storage before White House was rebuilt.

President and first lady portraits have emerged by an incredible number of White House visitors, though not absolutely all are on display. Some are undergoing conservation or come in storage.

The ones that are on display line hallways and rooms in public areas regions of the mansion, like the Ground Floor and its own Vermeil and China Rooms, and hawaii Floor one level above, which includes the famous Green, Blue and Red Rooms, the East Room and State DINING AREA.

Portraits of Mamie Eisenhower, Pat Nixon, Lady Bird Johnson and Lou Henry Hoover grace the Vermeil Room, plus a full-length image of Jacqueline Kennedy. Michelle Obamas portrait likely will join Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush across the Ground Floor hallway.

HAWAII Floor hallway one floor above features recent presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Gerald Fords portrait and the likeness of Richard Nixon the only real president to resign from office are on take on the Grand Staircase resulting in the private living quarters on the next floor.

Past presidents images maneuver around the White House, based on their standing with the existing occupants. Ronald Reagan, for instance, moved Thomas Jefferson and Harry S. Truman out from the Cabinet Room and swapped in Dwight Eisenhower and Calvin Coolidge.

In the Clinton era, portraits of Richard Nixon and Reagan, idols of the Republican Party, lost their showcase spot in the Grand Foyer and were replaced with pictures of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Truman, heroes of the Democrats. Nancy Reagan temporarily moved Eleanor Roosevelt to a location of prominence in the East Room in 1984 to mark the centennial of her birth.

Probably the most prominent spots for a portrait is above the mantle in hawaii Dining Room and contains been occupied for many years by way of a painting of a seated Abraham Lincoln, hand supporting his chin. It had been placed there by Franklin Roosevelt.

Bill Clintons and George W. Bushs portraits hold on opposing walls in the Grand Foyer.

Clintons will be relocated to create room for Barack Obamas if the White House sticks to tradition and keeps both latest Oval Office occupants there, McLaurin said.

Thats around the White House, to the curators, he said.

The association, that is funded through private donations and the sale of books and an annual White House Christmas ornament, keeps the portrait price well below market value due to the extraordinary honor an artist derives from having their masterpiece of design hanging perpetually in the White House, McLaurin said.

Information regarding the Obamas portraits will remain under wraps until Wednesday.

Biden would be the rare president to host a former boss for the unveiling; he was Obamas vice president. George H.W. Bush, who held Ronald Reagans ceremony, was Reagans No. 2.

Betty Monkman, a former White House curator, said throughout a 2017 podcast for the White House Historical Association that the ceremony is really a statement of generosity by the president and first lady. Its an extremely warm, lovely moment.

The White House portraits are 1 of 2 sets of portraits of presidents and first ladies. The National Portrait Gallery, a Smithsonian museum, maintains its collection and the ones portraits are unveiled prior to the White House pair. The Obamas unveiled their museum portraits in February 2018.

Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution, said within an email a $650,000 donation in July from Save America, Trumps political action committee, was earmarked for the couples museum portraits. Two artists have already been commissioned, one for every painting, and work has begun, St. Thomas said.


Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in NY contributed to the report.

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