Obama Portraits Unveiled at White House


From CBS News: Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama unveiled their official White House portraits at a ceremony on September 7, 2022. Robert McCurdy painted the former president, and Sharon Sprung painted the former first lady.


From the Art Students League of New York:

We’re thrilled to share that Sharon Sprung had the honor of being selected to paint the White House’s official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama. Sprung’s painting, which has been kept under wraps for more than five years, was finally unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery on Wednesday, September 7.

Sprung, an Art Students League alumna and current instructor, describes her process as one of “carefully observed negotiation.” Her work is driven by a painterly vision “as equivalent as possible to the complexity of real life.” In her striking portrait, Sprung captures Michelle Obama’s lauded tenure as First Lady of the United States, as well as her enduring status as a symbol of American excellence, elegance, and empathy.

“I want to thank Sharon Sprung for capturing everything I love about Michelle,” said Barack Obama, at the unveiling of the portraits on Wednesday. According to the New York Times, Sprung’s “portraits combine uncannily lifelike details with just enough painterly effect to make it impossible to forget that you’re looking at oil… Ms. Sprung’s painting is a reminder that oil paint remains the best technology for really looking at someone.”

The official portrait of first lady Michelle Obama painted by Sharon Sprung.
The official portrait of first lady Michelle Obama painted by Sharon Sprung.
Courtesy of White House Historical Association/White House Collection.

Sprung’s commission places her in the long line of League instructors and alumni who have also been commissioned for official portraits of U.S Presidents and their families. These include but are not limited to: Charles S. Hopkinson (1869–1962), Aaron Shikler (1922–2015), Everett Raymond Kinstler (1926–2019), Herbert E. Abrams (1921–2003), and John Howard Sanden (b. 1935).

Martha Greta Kempton (1901–1991), who painted the official portrait of President Truman, was also an Art Students League alumna. What else do Sharon Sprung and Kempton have in common? In 1928, Kempton studied at the League in Studio 7, where Frank Vincent DuMond taught at the time, and where Sprung now teaches her class today.

Sharon Sprung. Photo by Max Burkhalter.
Sharon Sprung. Photo by Max Burkhalter.

In addition to appearing at the unveiling, Sprung was profiled in the New York Times. Sprung was also interviewed for the short documentary below, which was produced by the Obama Foundation.

An exhibition of her work opens at Gallery Henoch on October 6, 2022. Sharon Sprung has been on the faculty of Realism Live, featured at RealismToday.com, and at FineArtConnoisseur.com.

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