Every US president's and first lady's official portraits

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June 26, 2020
George Peter Alexander Healy // Wikimedia Commons

Every U.S. president's and first lady's official portraits

Every U.S. president has their likeness immortalized on the walls of the White House. While a picture is worth a thousand words, the stories behind some of their official portraits tell the story of America.

From George Washington to Donald Trump, Stacker compiled a list of every U.S. president’s official portrait, as well as those of first ladies and hostesses, using information from the White House Historical Association and independent research.

The artists that were commissioned ranged from close personal friends to world-renowned artists. Though some paintings that were considered head and shoulders above the rest, like Herbert Abrams’s depiction of Jimmy Carter, not every official portrait session went so smoothly. Presidents Gerald Ford and Theodore Roosevelt both rejected first attempts at their official portraits, while in 1967, President Lyndon Johnson called artist Peter Hurd’s first portrayal of him “the ugliest thing I ever saw.” Artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff would craft Johnson’s official portrait a year later.

Johnson was Shoumatoff’s second attempt at a presidential portrait, with her first attempt two decades earlier representing a pivotal moment in American history. While sitting for Shoumatoff at the “Little White House” in Georgia on April 12, 1945, the country’s only four-term president died after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. Frank Salisbury later painted the official portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt, while Shoumatoff left her version unfinished.

Along with each slide, information about the portrait, the artist, as well as its personal and public reception are noted. The presidents, first ladies, and hostesses are listed in chronological order. Hostesses are included on this list because a family member of the president (a sister, daughter, sister-in-law, etc.) sometimes played a bigger role in the presidency than a spouse did.

Read on to discover every U.S. president and first lady’s official portrait, from Presidents Washington to Trump and First Ladies Martha to Melania.

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Gilbert Stuart // Wikimedia Commons

President: George Washington

- Years active: 1789–1797

President George Washington’s 8-foot portrait, painted by Gilbert Stuart, hangs not just on the White House walls, but is also one of the most reproduced images of all time. A bust-length representation has graced the face of $1 bill since 1869, reports the History Channel. The iconic first presidential portrait almost burned in flames during the War of 1812, but was saved by then-First Lady Dolley Madison, who risked her life to rescue the painting.

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Eliphalet Frazer Andrews // White House Collection

First Lady: Martha Washington

- Years active: 1789–1797

First Lady Martha Dandridge Custis Washington’s portrait, aglow in white and maroon, depicts the first president’s love standing stoically aside an oval-backed chair. However, George was not her first husband; she married him after being widowed by wealthy planter Daniel Parke Custis. It was her esteemed social status that helped her husband George win the presidency, making the couple the inaugural pacesetters for the new republic's leaders.

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John Trumbull // Wikimedia Commons

President: John Adams

- Years active: 1797–1801

The portrait of second U.S. President John Adams, one of America’s Founding Fathers, was duplicated from an original depiction of him when he was vice president under President George Washington in 1792–93. Painted in oil by John Trumbull on a 30 ⅙ x 24-inch canvas, the portrait exudes the seriousness of the Harvard graduate, one-term president, and American Revolution leader. President Adams and his First Lady Abigail were the first couple to reside in the White House after its construction in 1800.

 

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Gilbert Stuart // White House Collection

First Lady: Abigail Adams

- Years active: 1797–1801

First Lady Abigail Adams was no stranger to the executive branch, as the wife to President John Adams when he was vice president to President George Washington. Her friendship with then First Lady Martha Washington gave her confidence and social standing, enabling her to christen the White House with décor and entertainment as the first lady to reside there. Known for her bold opinion, the first lady is remembered as the strong woman behind the great man.

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Rembrant Peale // Wikimedia Commons

President: Thomas Jefferson

- Years active: 1801–1809

Rembrandt Peale painted President Thomas Jefferson’s portrait on a 23 ⅛ x 19 ¼-inch oil canvas a year before Jefferson led the country in 1800. The famed artist sat President Jefferson down again, painting him a second time in the White House when he completed his first term in 1805. The Whitehouse Historical Association reports that since President Jefferson accomplished a landslide reelection, he felt more relaxed in sitting, posing “for this formal portrait in a somewhat unconventional manner with his hair not dressed and covering his red coat with a large, fur-lined cape.”

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John Hutton // White House Collection

First Lady: Martha Jefferson

- Years active: 1801–1809

First Lady Martha Jefferson never enjoyed the glory and honor of her title, dying due to frequent pregnancies and miscarriage almost 20 years before President Thomas Jefferson assumed office in 1801. Out of her seven pregnancies, only two daughters survived past early adolescence. Their daughter Martha, called Patsy, would stand in for her mother as the lady of the White House from 1802–03 and once more from 1805–06.

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John Vanderlyn // Wikimeda Commons

President: James Madison

- Years active: 1809–1817

Two-term President James Madison had his official portrait completed a year before exiting the White House in 1816. The simple and stern bust-length depiction, painted in oil by John Vanderlyn on a 26 x 22 (3/16)-inch canvas, was commissioned by then friend and future president James Monroe. President Madison served during the War of 1812, which prompted the 1814 British attack on the White House, which became engulfed in flames.

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Gilbert Stuart // White House Collection

First Lady: Dolley Madison

- Years active: 1809–1817

First Lady Dolley Madison knew what it was like to run the White House before officially living in it, assisting President Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, who was the hostess since he served as a widowed leader. Portraits of the first lady often showed her lower-cut dresses that she was known for sporting along with other elaborate clothing. When the British attacked the White House during the War of 1812, First Lady Dolley Madison risked her life to save President George Washington’s portrait.

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Samuel F. B. Morse // Wikimedia Commons

President: James Monroe

- Years active: 1817–1825

Unlike some early leaders, President James Monroe sat for his official White House portrait, which was painted by the inventor of the telegraph Samuel F.B. Morse, during his administration in 1819. The 29 ⅝ x 24 ⅝-inch oil on canvas reveals the right side of the leader’s face and less of the left. President James Monroe sat for other paintings by famed portraitists Gilbert Stuart, who painted President George Washington, and Rembrandt Peale, who composed President Thomas Jefferson.

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White House Collection

First Lady: Elizabeth Monroe

- Years active: 1817–1825

First Lady Elizabeth Monroe began to break away from tradition by not associating closely with other diplomat wives due to her ill health and her private European-style entertaining. Her desire to stay distant caused strife between President James Monroe and some elected officials; however, First Lady Elizabeth was not swayed by his peers or the press, staying true to her aloofness.

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George Peter Alexander Healy // Wikimedia Commons

President: John Quincy Adams

- Years active: 1825-1829

Sitting afront red curtains on a rose velvet chair, the sixth U.S. President John Quincy Adams, son to the second U.S. President John Adams, had his portrait completed before becoming America’s leader. He was the only president to become a member of the House of Representatives after he served as commander-in-chief, later collapsing on the Capitol floor from a stroke in 1848 while arguing against the Mexican-American War. He died two days later. The White House portrait was composed in 1818 by George Peter Alexander Healy, a reputable portraitist of the time.

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Gilbert Stuart // White House Collection

First Lady: Louisa Adams

- Years active: 1825–1829

The official White House portrait of the first foreign-born First Lady Louisa Adams was gifted to the historic collection by her great-great grandson. It was accepted by First Lady Pat Nixon when she governed the house in 1971. The oil painting completed by portraitist Gilbert Stuart, famous for other presidential portraits, is on a 25 x 35-inch canvas.

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Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl // Wikimedia Commons

President: Andrew Jackson

- Years active: 1829–1837

The portrait of the seventh U.S. President Andrew Jackson hangs in the Oval Office now, placed there by historian Walter Russell. Portraitist Ralph E. W. Earl, who studied under famed political painter John Trumball, painted the noble likeness of President Jackson in 1835. The artist and the muse would become lifelong friends, with Earl painting family portraits as far back as 1817 in Tennessee, and eventually marrying one of President Jackson and First Lady Rachel’s nieces.

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Howard Chandler Christy // White House Collection

First Lady: Rachel Jackson

- Years active: N/A

First Lady Rachel Jackson became a target of her husband's political rivals, specifically President John Quincy Adams, who used her accidental bigamy as a charge of adultery against her and President Andrew Jackson. Due to the scandal, the first lady fell into depression. She lost a son to illness, and eventually died of a heart attack that President Jackson would later blame on political rivals. Though no artist name accompanies the official White House portrait of the First Lady Rachel, her niece’s husband, Ralph E.W. Earl, painted President Jackson’s official portrait and many other family pictures.

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Ralph E.W. Earl // White House Collection

Hostess: Emily Donelson

- Years active: 1829–1836

Defacto First Lady and White House Hostess Emily Donelson was the niece of Rachel Donelson Jackson, the late wife of President Andrew Jackson. Not only did she govern the White House from 1829–1834 at the age of 21, but she also mothered four children, three of which she bore in the Washington estate. Married to A.J. Donelson, the president’s private secretary, she died in 1836, passing off her familial duty to Sarah Yorke Jackson, wife of the president’s adopted nephew, after the U.S. scandal known as the “Petticoat Affair” or “Peggy Eaton Affair.”

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George Peter Alexander Healy // Wikimedia Commons

President: Martin Van Buren

- Years active: 1837–1841

President Martin Van Buren’s official White House portrait, composed 17 years after he left the White House, was painted by George Peter Alexander Healy, whom the White House Historical Association calls “one of the most popular and prolific portraitists of the mid-nineteenth century.” The self-taught painter, who illustrated President Abraham Lincoln in 1860, painted a 62 ½ x 47 ⅜-inch oil on canvas of the president standing stoically aside a table in 1858, two years after Healy migrated to America from Europe.

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White House Collection

First Lady: Hannah Van Buren

- Years active: N/A

First Lady Hannah Van Buren was a close cousin to her husband, President Martin Van Buren, growing up together in New York State; however, she never stepped foot in the White House, dying 18 years before he was elected. Little is known about First Lady Hannah, according to the White House Historical Association, which notes she was called “an ornament of Christian faith.” Her stately position would be filled by White House Hostess Angelica Van Buren, who married one of the president’s four sons after being introduced to him by Dolley Madison.

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Henry Inman // White House Collection

Hostess: Angelica Van Buren

- Years active: 1838–1841

As a daughter-in-law to President Martin Van Buren, Hostess Angela Van Buren became the de facto first lady since the leader’s wife died almost two decades before he was elected. Andrew Van Buren, the president’s son, acted as his private secretary, while his well-educated South Carolinian wife, who was the youngest White House hostess, kept the Washington estate in order. She even bolstered President Van Buren’s reputation with her Southern belle charm and beauty depicted in the light and dark illustration of her, adorned in feathers and pearls.

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James Lambdin // Wikimedia Commons

President: William Henry Harrison

- Years active: 1841

President William Henry Harrison had his official White House portrait painted years before his election by James Read Lambdin, a famous Pennsylvania-born portraitist, who also composed the likeness of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, and James A. Garfield. After being commissioned to paint influential political leaders, Lamdin would go onto become the director for the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and a professor. The 30 x 25-inch oil on canvas depicts the military veteran and president, who died of pneumonia after only 32 days in office, making him the shortest-serving U.S. leader.

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Cornelia Stuart Cassady // White House Collection

First Lady: Anna Harrison

- Years active: 1841

Ironically, First Lady Anna Harrison objected to the election of her husband, President William Harrison, who died only 31 days after assuming office. The first lady, who was detained in North Bend, Ohio, due to illness herself, would not even have enough time to move to the Washington estate before her husband's death. Her official White House painting, like that of her husband, is unnamed, and according to The National First Ladies Library, “although only one portrait of her is extant, others may have been made.”

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White House Collection

Hostess: Jane Harrison

- Years active: 1841

De facto First Lady Jane Harrison served with President William Harrison, her father-in-law, the first month of his presidency until he died on day 31. Since the president’s wife, Anna, was too ill to travel to Washington with him, Hostess Jane filled in for her until she could make the journey that she would never wind up taking. Little is known of Hostess Jane and the official White House portrait, which depicts her in a black-and-white dress covered with a red shawl.

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George Peter Alexander Healy // Wikimedia Commons

President: John Tyler

- Years active: 1841–1845

Like many official White House paintings, the portrait of the 10th U.S. President John Tyler was composed in 1859 long after he was the commander-in-chief. Famed Boston-born painter George Peter Alexander Healy produced the 62 x 47 ⅛-inch oil on canvas a couple of years after migrating to America from Europe. During his tenure as a portraitist, Healy was also commissioned to paint religious icons and royalty, such as Pope Pius IX and Queen Elizabeth of Romania.

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White House Collection

First Lady: Letitia Tyler

- Years active: 1841–1842

First Lady Letitia Tyler would die in the White House in 1842, making her the first of three women with this sad distinction, including First Lady Caroline Harrison in 1892 and First Lady Ellen Wilson in 1914. The White House Historical Association credits the official “heirloom” White House portrait to John Tyler Griffin, the great-great-grandson to the president and his wife. Due to her poor health, First Lady Letitia was often confined to a second floor in the Washington estate, with her daughter-in-law Priscilla assuming many hostess duties of the White House.

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Francesco Anelli // White House Collection

First Lady: Julia Tyler

- Years active: 1844–1845

The second wife of President John Tyler, whom he married after the death of his first wife, First Lady Julia, was painted by portraitist Francesco Anelli between 1846 and 1848, when she was in her mid-20s. Descending from a wealthy New York family and called “The Rose of Long Island,” First Lady Julia would become a widow to President John Tyler in 1863, which was a severe blow to her, according to the White House Historical Association. Along with the portrait of the first lady, Italian-American artist Anelli is famed for his painting “The End of World,” which was lost and never found.

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George Peter Alexander Healy // Wikimedia Commons

President: James K. Polk

- Years active: 1845–1849

President James K. Polk’s official White House portrait by George Peter Alexander Healy on a 62 ½ x 47 ⅛ canvas captures the 11th U.S. president staring off stoically, dressed in black with clasped hands. It was painted nine years after his death in 1858. Healy was a prolific painter of the time, who composed other U.S. presidents including Martin Van Buren and Abraham Lincoln. He attributed his artistic talent to his grandmother, whom he grew up watching create pictures of her journey in the West Indian Islands. He was 16 when he picked up his first paintbrush.

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George Dury // White House Collection

First Lady: Sarah Polk

- Years active: 1845–1849

Esteemed for her formal education and political savvy, First Lady Sarah Polk was very involved in her husband President James K. Polk’s administration. The official White House portrait of First Lady Sarah by artist George Dury was painted in 1883 from an 1846 depiction of her by George Peter Alexander Healy, who also painted President Polk’s portait. Migrating from the Kingdom of Bavaria, Dury would settle down in Tennessee and eventually paint Robert E. Lee and President Andrew Johnson.

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Joseph Henry Bush // Wikimedia Commons

President: Zachary Taylor

- Years active: 1849–1850

President Zachary Taylor’s official White House portrait was painted one year before he entered office in 1858 by artist Joseph H. Bush. The oil on canvas depicts the president clad in military uniform, signifying his many battle victories, including the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War, which branded him an American hero. President Taylor’s untimely death two years into his administration promoted Vice President Millard Fillmore to commander-in-chief.

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Bureau of National Literature and Art // White House Collection

First Lady: Margaret Taylor

- Years active: 1849–1850

While “no certain likeness” of First Lady Margaret Taylor exists, the 1903 sketch of her credited to the Bureau of National Literature and Art acts as the official White House portrait, according to White House Historical Association. Avoiding all public and political occasions, First Lady Taylor shared her time with friends, family, and church members, leaving White House hostess duties to her youngest daughter Mary Elizabeth Taylor Bliss; she would serve in the Washington estate for two years before her father’s sudden death.

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George Peter Alexander Healy // Wikimedia Commons

President: Millard Fillmore

- Years active: 1850–1853

U.S. President Millard Fillmore was just another powerful political leader painted by portraitist George Peter Alexander Healy. The 94 ⅛ x 58-inch oil work depicts President Fillmore in 1857, four years after the former vice president stepped in as commander-in-chief for President Zachary Taylor, who died in office a year into his term. Healy portrayed President Fillmore standing sternly with his hand on his hip in front of an elegant set of curtains and chair, a familiar backdrop used by the portraitist.

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White House Collection

First Lady: Abigail Powers Fillmore

- Years active: 1850–1853

The unknown artist for First Lady Abigail Powers Filmore’s official White House portrait depicted the wife of the 13th president with long curls and a white bonnet. First Lady Abigail, who in ill health continued to act as a teacher while serving in the White House, bestowed many of her official duties to her daughter Mary Abigail. Meanwhile, she helped create the White House library in the Yellow Oval Room, before dying during the last year of her husband’s term in 1853 of pneumonia.

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George Peter Alexander Healy // Wikimedia Commons

President: Franklin Pierce

- Years active: 1853–1857

President Franklin would be the 14th U.S. leader and one of many painted by portraitist George Peter Alexander Healy. The oil on canvas sized 62 3/16 x 47 ⅛ was painted a year after President Pierce served in 1858, common among many paintings of U.S. leaders. Though the president was a brigadier general in the Mexican-American War, Healy did not compose President Pierce in military attire; instead, he characterized him in a formal black suit.

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Library of Congress // White House Historical Association

First Lady: Jane Pierce

- Years active: 1853–1857

The engraving of First Lady Jane Pierce was completed 29 years after her husband left office in 1886 by artist John Chester Buttre, a famed steel-plate engraver and lithographer of political and military society. The depiction of First Lady Pierce seemingly reflects her personality as a pious woman who suffered greatly due to the death of her three sons, one of which was killed in a train accident before the inauguration of her husband, whom she discouraged from running for office.

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John Henry Brown // Wikimedia Commons

President: James Buchanan

- Years active: 1857–1861

The original oil-on-canvas portrait of President James Buchanan was rendered by artist John Henry Brown in 1851 before Buchanan took office. William Merritt Chase created his own portrait of the country’s only bachelor president in 1902. Both depictions show Buchanan wearing his customary high collar covering his neck.

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White House Collection

First Lady: Harriet Lane

- Years active: 1857–1861

Niece and ward to lifetime bachelor President James Buchanan, First Lady Harriet Lane became the official White House hostess for her uncle during his administration. While the photographer of the black-and-white photo of First Lady Harriet in a full-length button-up dress is unknown, its addition to the collection is credited to the Library of Congress. Dubbed the “First Lady of the National Collection of Fine Arts,” by the Smithsonian Institute for bestowing her considerable art collection, the White House hostess also founded an adolescent invalid home at John Hopkins Hospital.

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George Peter Alexander Healy // Wikimedia Commons

President: Abraham Lincoln

- Years active: 1861–1865

The official White House painting of President Abraham Lincoln by prolific portraitist George Peter Alexander Healy was completed in 1869, four years after his assassination.The artist and muse were not strangers, as President Lincoln sat for Healy in 1864. Healy would use President Lincoln's forward-sitting pose in his later work "The Peacemakers," a depiction of the iconic Civil War council that took place on the River Queen steamboat.

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Katherine Helm // White House Collection

First Lady: Mary Todd Lincoln

- Years active: 1861–1865

First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln's official White House portrait, painted by her niece Katherine Helm, shows her adorned in flowers from head to dress. After 17 years of overwhelming grief and depression from her husband's assassination, Lincoln died at her sister's home, where she and the president had married 40 years earlier.

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Eliphalet Frazer Andrews // Wikimedia Commons

President: Andrew Johnson

- Years active: 1865–1869

The official posthumous White House painting of 17th President Andrew Jackson by Eliphalet Frazer Andrews is one of the few political portraits the Ohio native brushed. The 1880 picture was painted five years after President Johnson's death in 1875. President Johnson's face appears out of blackness on the 30 ⅜ x 25 ⅛ canvas, casting President Lincoln's successor in a serious, stoic manner.

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Library of Congress // White House Historical Association

First Lady: Eliza Johnson

- Years active: 1865–1869

The engraving of First Lady Eliza Johnson, etched by John Chester Buttre in 1883, depicted her thoughtfully, dressed in a white button-up collar and bonnet. The steel-engraver and lithographer also etched First Lady Jane Pierce’s official White House portrait, who is also shown somberly. Unlike many presidents’ wives, First Lady Jane did not enjoy entertaining, only hosting a formal political dinner when necessary, and passing off her official White House duties to her daughter, Hostess Martha Johnson Patterson.

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White House Collection

Hostess: Martha Johnson Patterson

- Years active: 1865–1869

President Andrew Johnson's daughter Martha Johnson Patterson was the de facto first lady during her father's administration. Her mother, Eliza, secluded herself on the second floor of the White House, preferring intimate family gatherings rather than large public affairs. Her simple black-and-white portrait, illustrated by an unknown artist, depicts the Tennessee country girl, who brought two cows to the White House, with her hair wrapped up and dressed in a high collar.

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Henry Ulke // Wikimedia Commons

President: Ulysses S. Grant

- Years active: 1869–1877

The official White House portrait, painted by Henry Ulke in 1875, portrays President Ulysses S. Grant sitting in a red velvet chair, relaxed and staring off. Ulke, a Prussian immigrant, opened a studio in Washington D.C. on Pennsylvania Ave., eventually depicting high-profile politicians and notable scientists.

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Library of Congress // White House Historical Association

First Lady: Julia Grant

- Years active: 1869–1877

Mathew Brady, a renowned Civil War photographer, took the picture that stands as First Lady Julia Grant’s official portrait. Brady, called the father of photojournalism, was the first to document a war at his own personal expense. Grant is buried in New York City’s Grant’s Tomb, next to her husband.

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Daniel Huntington // Wikimedia Commons

President: Rutherford B. Hayes

- Years active: 1877–1881

Daniel Huntington composed President Rutherford B. Hayes’ official portrait in 1884, which led to his commission for Chester A. Arthur’s portrait in 1885. A prominent member of The Hudson River School of landscape art early in his career, Huntington turned to portraiture and produced over 1,000 works of art.

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Daniel Huntington // White House Collection

First Lady: Lucy Hayes

- Years active: 1877–1881

First Lady Lucy Hayes, similarly to her husband, was painted by Daniel Huntington for her official White House portrait. Hayes helped complete the presidential and first lady portrait catalog, lobbying Congress to buy an official portrait of Martha Washington. Huntington was the subject of the first one-man exhibition in New York’s art scene.

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Calvin Curtis // Wikimedia Commons

President: James A. Garfield

- Years active: 1881

Calvin Curtis painted James A. Garfield’s 38 x 30⅞-inch official White House portrait in 1881. The portrait was presented in March of 1881, during Garfield’s short tenure. Garfield served just four months in office before he was assassinated on July 2, 1881 at a Washington D.C. railway station.

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Mathew Brady // White House Collection

First Lady: Lucretia Garfield

- Years active: 1881

Civil War photographer Mathew Brady took the official portrait photograph of First Lady Lucretia Garfield. Brady’s work is seen nearly every day by most Americans, as his photograph of Abraham Lincoln was used for the $5 bill. A member of the International Photography Hall of Fame, Brady was the first photographer to completely document a war.

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Daniel Huntington // Wikimedia Commons

President: Chester A. Arthur

- Years active: 1881–1885

Artist Daniel Huntington captured the official portrait of 21st President Chester A. Arthur during the final year of his administration in 1885. Huntington was a renowned New York artist who belonged to the Hudson River School art movement best known for their landscapes. Upon turning to portraiture later in his career, Huntington painted notable figures like poet William Cullen Bryant, and presidents Martin Van Buren and Abraham Lincoln.

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C.M. Bell // White House Historical Association

First Lady: Ellen Arthur

- Years active: 1881

First Lady Ellen Arthur’s official photograph was taken between 1857 and 1870, according to the Library of Congress. Arthur caught pneumonia and passed away in 1880, shortly after her husband was elected vice president, and one year before the assassination of President James Garfield.

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White House Collection

Hostess: Mary Arthur McElroy

- Years active: 1881–1885

President Chester Arthur never remarried upon his wife’s death, but his sister, Mary Arthur McElroy, took over hostess duties for the remainder of his presidency. Renowned engraver and publisher John Sartain created the steel engraving of McElroy for her official portrait. Sartain was a close friend of poet Edgar Allan Poe, and his publication, “Sartain’s Union Magazine of Literature and Art,” was the first to publish “The Bells” in 1849.

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Eastman Johnson // Wikimedia Commons

President: Grover Cleveland

- Years active: 1885–1889/1893–1897

President Stephen Grover Cleveland, America’s only president to serve two non-consecutive terms, had his 53 ¾ x 42 ⅜-inch oil on canvas portrait painted by Eastman Johnson. Much of Johnson's work focused on Native American communities and well-known leaders from various tribes. Cleveland, also the only president to be married at the White House, lost the presidency to Benjamin Harrison in 1888 before defeating Harrison and returning to the White House in 1893.

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White House Collection

Hostess: Rose Cleveland

- Years active: 1885–1886

Rose Cleveland fulfilled the hostess role for her presidential brother for one year before he wed Frances Folsom in June 1886. She held the role of first lady for the dedication of the Statue of Liberty before pursuing a career in literature.

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Casimir Gregory Stapko // White House Collection

First Lady: Frances Cleveland

- Years active: 1886–1889, 1893–1897

Anders Leonard Zorn captured the official portrait of the nation’s youngest-ever first lady in 1889. Frances Folsom was the daughter of Grover Cleveland’s former law partner, assuming the role of first lady at 21 years old following a White House wedding. Aside from hosting weekly parties for the social elite, Cleveland was known for holding Saturday afternoon events for working women.

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Eastman Johnson // Wikimedia Commons

President: Benjamin Harrison

- Years active: 1889–1893

The grandson of ninth President William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Harrison served a single term between Grover Cleveland's presidencies. Artist Eastman Johnson captured Harrison’s official oil on canvas portrait two years after his White House departure in 1895. The Indiana-born Harrison was a Civil War hero, with his regiment instrumental in capturing Atlanta from the Confederacy.

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Daniel Huntington // White House Collection

First Lady: Caroline Harrison

- Years active: 1889–1892

A music teacher and activist prior to serving as first lady, Caroline Harrison’s official portrait was done in 1880 by Adolphe Yvon. She founded the Daughters of the American Revolution and persuaded Johns Hopkins University to begin admitting women through her fundraising efforts. A noted artist, Harrison’s vibrant portrait encapsulates her love of color and flowers.

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Harriet A.S. Murphy // Wikimedia Commons

President: William McKinley

- Years active: 1897–1901

Artist Harriet A.S. Murphy captured the 5 x 3-foot oil painting of President William McKinley posthumously in 1902. McKinley was shot in 1901 at the Pan-American exhibition in Buffalo, New York and died eight days later. McKinley was president during the Spanish-American War, which resulted in the U.S. gaining control of Guam, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Hawaii.

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Emily Drayton Taylor // White House Collection

First Lady: Ida McKinley

- Years active: 1897–1901

First Lady Ida McKinley’s portrait shows her at her favorite spot on the White House grounds, the Conservatory. The privacy allowed McKinley, who suffered from epilepsy, to escape the public eye. She is responsible for introducing music and entertainment after formal White House dinners, and was instrumental in the advancement of the Salvation Army in the United States.

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John Singer Sargent // Wikimedia Commons

President: Theodore Roosevelt

- Years active: 1901–1909

The portrait session for Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t an easy one, with the president and artist John Singer Sargent butting heads repeatedly in 1903. Roosevelt had already destroyed his first portrait by Theobald Chartran, claiming the artist made him look like a “mewing cat.” After heated exchanges, Sargent depicted Roosevelt as angry to help animate the portrait.

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Thobald Chartran // White House Collection

First Lady: Edith Roosevelt

- Years active: 1901–1909

Unlike her husband, First Lady Edith Roosevelt kept her portrait by artist Theobald Chartran in 1902. Captured in full formal wear, complete with a hat and cane in the garden, Roosevelt was responsible for major construction at the White House. In adapting the residence to suit her large family, her renovations resulted in the creation of the West Wing, and her husband coining the term “White House.”

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Anders Zorn // Wikimedia Commons

President: William Howard Taft

- Years active: 1909–1913

Anders Leonard Zorn captured the 27th president’s portrait in 1912 in the White House’s Blue Room. Frank Graham Cootes recreated the work in 1936 using oil on a 50 x 30-inch canvas, six years after Taft’s death and 23 years following his presidency. A lawyer by trade, Taft would serve as chief justice of the Supreme Court from 1921 until shortly before his death in March 1930.

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Bror Kronstand // White House Collection

First Lady: Helen Taft

- Years active: 1909–1913

Helen Herron Taft was painted in 1910 by Karl B.A. Kronstad, despite the first lady suffering a severe stroke just two months after her husband’s inauguration in 1909. Styled in a flowing gown while seated on a bench on the White House grounds, Taft oversaw the planting of the famous cherry blossoms in 1912.

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Frank Graham Cootes // Wikimedia Commons

President: Woodrow Wilson

- Years active: 1913–1921

American artist Franklin Graham Cootes captured President Woodrow Wilson using oil on a 50 x 40-inch canvas in 1936. Cootes was known mostly for his career as an illustrator, with his work frequently appearing in The Saturday Evening Post, Vogue, and Ladies’ Home Journal. Cootes shows Wilson sitting in a wooden chair holding a book, a nod to the president’s love of reading.

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White House Collection

First Lady: Ellen Wilson

- Years active: 1913–1914

President Woodrow Wilson’s first wife, Ellen Louise Axson, succumbed to Bright’s disease just one year into his first term. Her official portrait stands as a photograph donated by the Library of Congress. The daughter of slave owners, she is considered one of the first first ladies to use the office for social causes, lobbying for better housing and services among Washington’s Black communities.

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Adolfo Mller-Ury // White House Collection

First Lady: Edith Wilson

- Years active: 1915–1921

Swiss-born impressionist Adolfo Muller-Ury, who had previously done works of notable figures like Charles Schwab in 1903, painted Edith Wilson’s official portrait. Wilson is considered among the most powerful first ladies ever, essentially assuming the presidency after Woodrow Wilson’s stroke in 1919. The portrait of a stately Edith is on display at the Woodrow Wilson House in Washington D.C.

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Edmund Hodgson Smart // Wikimedia Commons

President: Warren G. Harding

- Years active: 1921–1923

Renowned British painter Edmund Hodgson Smart put oil to canvas for the official portrait of President Warren G. Harding. Best known as a portraitist, Smart had previously painted such notable world leaders as King Edward VII of Britain, France’s Marshal Foch, and General John Pershing. Smart’s 58 ⅜ x 37 ⅞-inch portrayal came in June 1922, one year before Harding’s death of a heart attack in San Francisco.

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Flp Lszl // White House Collection

First Lady: Florence Harding

- Years active: 1921–1923

Hungarian-born artist Flp Lszl painted the portrait of Florence Harding in 1921 from a sketch he drew of the first lady while visiting the president. A famed portraitist, Lazl — real name Philip Alexius de Laszlo de Lombos — was touring Washington D.C. to paint various dignitaries when he created the oil painting. The first lady was so fond of the portrait, she distributed prints to the White House staff.

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Charles Sydney Hopkinson // Wikimedia Commons

President: Calvin Coolidge

- Years active: 1923–1929

Called “The Dean of U.S. Portraitists” by Time Magazine in 1948, Charles Hopkinson added President Calvin Coolidge to his collection in 1932. Hopkinson, known for his watercolor landscapes and portraits, was commissioned for over 350 portraits from 1920 to 1950, including the Rockefellers and 45 former Harvard presidents. The Harvard grad’s first paid portrait came in 1897, when he was commissioned to paint a young E.E. Cummings.

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Howard Chandler Christy // White House Collection

First Lady: Grace Coolidge

- Years active: 1923–1929

Howard Chandler Christy’s watercolor depiction of First Lady Grace Coolidge standing next to her white collie, Rob Roy, still hangs in the White House’s China Room. Christy, who began capturing famous dignitaries later in his career, was best known as an illustrator, creating patriotic WWI posters and the “Christy Girl,” which became the symbol of the ideal “New Woman.” His most notable work, the 20 x 30-foot “Signing of the Constitution,” resides in the U.S. Capitol building’s east grand stairwell of the House.

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Elmer Wesley Greene // Wikimedia Commons

President: Herbert Hoover

- Years active: 1929–1933

Boston native Elmer Wesley Greene painted President Herbert Hoover in 1956, 23 years after he left office. The 50 ⅛ x 40 ⅛-inch oil painting depicts Hoover seated in a chair, legs crossed, next to a globe. Greene also created portraits of notable dignitaries like Pope Pius XII, Cardinal Spellman, and for­mer Florida Governor LeRoy Collins.

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Richard Mardsen Brown // White House Collection

First Lady: Lou Hoover

- Years active: 1929–1933

Artist Richard Marsden Brown crafted his portrait of First Lady Lou Hoover in 1950 from a likeness by Philip de László. Mrs. Hoover served two stints as president of The Girl Scouts of America and was the only woman in the geology department at Stanford University when she met her future husband.

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Frank O. Salisbury // Wikimedia Commons

President: Franklin D. Roosevelt

- Years active: 1933–1945

The White House recognizes two portraits of America’s longest-serving president, who suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died while sitting for artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff on April 12, 1945. Shoumatoff would not finish her portrait for two decades, completing the work from memory in 1966. In the interim, artist Frank Salisbury finished his 50 ¼ x 40 ⅜-inch portrait in 1947.

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Douglas Chandor // White House Collection

First Lady: Eleanor Roosevelt

- Years active: 1933–1945

Douglas Chandor painted a portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt in 1949 from his New York studio, although it wouldn’t become her official picture until 1966. First Lady Lady Bird Johnson held a reception to unveil the portrait, which shows Roosevelt writing in a journal above other depictions of her knitting, thinking, and holding her wedding ring. Chandor was considered one of the era’s top artists, with portraits of Winston Churchill and Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt displayed in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

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Greta Kempton // Wikimedia Commons

President: Harry S. Truman

- Years active: 1945–1953

President Harry S. Truman’s portrait, created by Martha Greta Kempton in 1947, shows him seated stoically in a chair looking directly at the viewer. Kempton, who was the official White House artist, painted the 50 x 40 ¼-inch portrait over the course of five sessions in the Cabinet Room. Kempton’s portrait would be used in Truman’s reelection campaign, as well as the basis of a postage stamp in 1983 and U.S. coin in 1985 commemorating Truman’s 100th birthday.

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Greta Kempton // White House Collection

First Lady: Elizabeth Truman

- Years active: 1945–1953

Fourteen years after leaving the White House, First Lady Elizabeth “Bess” Truman sat for a portrait by Martha Greta Kempton. The official portrait is one of three Kempton did of the first lady through the years, and she also captured multiple renderings of the president, and the entire Truman family. Washington D.C.’s Corcoran gallery held an exhibition of Kempton’s work in 1949, drawing more visitors than any other living artist.

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James Anthony Willis // Wikimedia Commons

President: Dwight D. Eisenhower

- Years active: 1953–1961

James Anthony Wills was a self-taught artist with no formal training when he painted the official White House portrait of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Wills, who was noted for his ability to capture the likeness of a subject (particularly in hands), painted other dignitaries and presidents, including Nixon and Truman.

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Thomas Edgar Stevens // White House Collection

First Lady: Mamie Eisenhower

- Years active: 1953–1961

Artist Thomas Edgar Stephens captured Mamie Eisenhower’s official portrait in 1959, showing the first Lady formally dressed, complete with a matching pink clutch and pearls. Stephens was an established portraitist, having previously created likenesses of George C. Marshall and President Dwight Eisenhower. In 1948, Stephens painted his first portrait of Mamie Eisenhower, while her husband was president of Columbia University.

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Aaron Shikler // Wikimedia Commons

President: John F. Kennedy

- Years active: 1961–1963

Aaron Shikler’s 50 x 34-inch official portrait of President John F. Kennedy has hung in the East Room of the White House since 1971. Painted in 1970, seven years after JFK’s assasination, Shikler’s portraits and artwork can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian, and Brooklyn Museum. He would go on to paint two first ladies, and his portrait of Ronald Reagan, although unofficial, was used by Time Magazine for its Man of the Year cover in 1981.

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Aaron Shikler // White House Collection

First Lady: Jacqueline Kennedy

- Years active: 1961–1963

Aaron Shikler completed First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s portrait at the same time as her husband's in 1970. The oil on canvas rendering hangs next to President Kennedy in the East Room of the White House. Shikler was commissioned to produce a number of portraits of pop culture icons, including Barbara Walters, Diana Ross, and Giorgio Armani.

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Elizabeth Shoumatoff // Wikimedia Commons

President: Lyndon B. Johnson

- Years active: 1963–1969

Elizabeth Shoumatoff created the official watercolor-on-paper portrait of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. Shoumatoff is best known for her unfinished rendering of Franklin Roosevelt, who suffered a brain hemorrhage while sitting for his portrait in 1945. The Russian-American painter crafted more than 3,000 portraits in her career, including renderings of the DuPonts, Mellons, and Fricks.

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Elizabeth Shoumatoff // White House Collection

First Lady: Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson

- Years active: 1963–1969

Elizabeth Shoumatoff captured First Lady Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson in 1968 as well, releasing a watercolor study before the completed portrait. Lady Bird Johnson actively promoted a number of beautification projects, and was the first presidential wife to have a press secretary and chief of staff. Educated at the University of Texas, Johnson was a self-made millionaire.

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James Anthony Willis // Wikimedia Commons

President: Richard M. Nixon

- Years active: 1969–1974

President Richard Nixon’s portrait, painted by James Anthony Wills in 1984, hangs in the Grand Staircase in the East Room of the White House. Nixon, who resigned office amid the Watergate scandal in 1974, served as vice president under Dwight Eisenhower, whose official portrait was also done by Wills.

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Henriette Wyeth // White House Collection

First Lady: Patricia Nixon

- Years active: 1969–1974

Henriette Wyeth, who learned to paint left-handed after polio immobilized her right hand as a child, crafted the official portrait of First Lady Patricia Nixon in 1978. Wyeth came from a family of artists, and had painted a number of dignitaries, including President Lyndon Johnson (her portrait was the basis of Time Magazine’s 1964 Man of the Year cover). Among her other notable works, Wyeth painted her brother Andrew for Time in 1963.

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Everett Raymond Kinstler // White House Collection

President: Gerald R. Ford

- Years active: 1974–1977

The official portrait of President Gerald R. Ford, seen holding his pipe, was painted by Everett Raymond Kinstler and was unveiled in May 1978. Kinstler was a premier comic book artist early in his career before turning to portraits. He painted a who’s who of American culture, from John Wayne and Paul Newman to eight American presidents. With over 2,000 portraits on his resume, Kinstler was awarded the Smithsonian's top honor, the Copley Medal, in 1999.

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Felix de Cossio // White House Collection

First Lady: Betty Ford

- Years active: 1974–1977

Cuban artist Felix de Cossio captured First Lady Betty Ford in 1977. De Cossio, who fled Cuba as Fidel Castro rose to power, depicted the first lady seated in a Louis XV chair in front of a bouquet of flowers. The first lady’s portrait went more smoothly than her husband’s, who rejected a first portrait by American artist John Ulbright.

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Herbert E. Abrams // White House Collection

President: Jimmy Carter

- Years active: 1977–1981

American painter Herbert Abrams, considered one of the top artists in his field, crafted President Jimmy Carter’s portrait in 1982. Unveiled on the State Floor without fanfare at Carter’s request, the 38 x 32-inch portrait is one of more than 400 with Abrams’s signature. White House curator Clement Conger, who led the search for Carter’s portraitist, called Abrams the best he’d seen.

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George Augusta // White House Collection

First Lady: Rosalynn Carter

- Years active: 1977–1981

Boston-based artist George Augusta captured First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s official portrait in 1984. Among his many portraits over a 60-year career, Augusta’s rendering of former Chief Justice Warren Burger hangs in the Supreme Court Gallery. Carter, along with her husband, received the Medal of Freedom in 1999.

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Everett Raymond Kinstler // White House Collection

President: Ronald Reagan

- Years active: 1981–1989

Accomplished artist Everett Raymond Kinstler completed the 50⅛ x 40⅛-inch portrait of President Ronald Reagan in 1991. Kinstler was well-known from his work as a comic book artist before turning to portraiture, and is also credited with President Gerald Ford’s official picture. Among his 2,000-plus portraits are renderings of John D. Rockefeller, Peter O’Toole, and eight U.S. presidents.

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Aaron Shikler // White House Collection

First Lady: Nancy Reagan

- Years active: 1981–1989

Artist Aaron Shikler had already painted a portrait of First Lady Nancy Reagan standing in a red dress in 1984, before he repeated the feat for her official White House portrait. Shikler is also responsible for crafting portraits of President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. His portrait of Senator Mike Mansfield is among the most recognizable in the Senate, although Mansfield was against the idea: “When I’m gone, I want to be forgotten.”

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Herbert E. Abrams // White House Collection

President: George H.W. Bush

- Years active: 1989–1993

President George H.W. Bush was so impressed with the portrait of Jimmy Carter that he hired artist Herbert Abrams for his own. Some of Abrams’s 400 portraits hang at the Pentagon, U.S. Capitol, West Point, and the Treasury Department—along with the requisite museums and galleries. The White House unveiling in 1995 made Abrams the first artist to cross the aisle, with official portraits of both a Democratic and a Republican president.

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Chas Fagan // White House Collection

First Lady: Barbara Bush

- Years active: 1989–1993

Herbert Abrams painted the first official portrait of First Lady Barbara Bush, which was unveiled in 1995, though artist Chas Fagan crafted a new one in 2004. Fagan’s work is visible throughout the country, with sculptures of Ronald Reagan and Rosa Parks in the nation’s capital, Neil Armstrong at Indiana’s Purdue University, and “Freedom’s Charge” in Dallas. He also crafted the official portrait for the 2016 canonization of Mother Teresa at Rome’s St. Peter’s Cathedral.

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Simmie Knox // White House Collection

President: William J. Clinton

- Years active: 1993–2001

Simmie Knox’s 2002 rendering of President Bill Clinton was the first presidential portrait by an African-American artist. Knox was an aspiring baseball player alongside childhood friend Hank Aaron before a severe eye injury steered him toward painting as a way to rehabilitate his eye. Knox’s many portraits of African-American icons include Muhammad Ali, Frederick Douglass, and, of course, Hank Aaron.

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Simmie Knox // White House Collection

First Lady: Hillary Clinton

- Years active: 1993–2001

Simmie Knox also painted Hillary Clinton’s official portrait in 2002, depicting the first lady clad in her customary pantsuit and standing next to a copy of her book, “It Takes a Village." The portrait is on display in the White House’s Ground Floor Corridor. Clinton praised Knox’s calming demeanor and humanity at the official White House unveiling on June 14, 2004.

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John Howard Sanden // White House Collection

President: George W. Bush

- Years active: 2001–2009

An accomplished painter in his own right, President George W. Bush’s official portrait was completed by John Howard Sanden in 2011. Sanden, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Portrait Artists in 1994, was the longtime art director for the Reverend Billy Graham before he moved into portraiture. The painting was unveiled in May 2012 with Bush's father, former president George H.W. Bush, in attendance.

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John Howard Sanden // White House Collection

First Lady: Laura Bush

- Years active: 2001–2009

John Howard Sanden also painted First Lady Laura Bush’s official portrait, which shows her standing in the White House’s Green Room, which she helped refurbish. Sanden has written six books about portraiture, and has painted African kings, former Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd, as well as his former employer, Reverend Billy Graham, among others.

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Kehinde Wiley // Smithsonian Institution

President: Barack Obama

- Years active: 2009–2017

President Barack Obama’s official White House portrait—painted by Kehinde Wiley, a Black artist known for his meticulously designed depictions of Black subjects with historical themes or cultural references—hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery but has yet to be unveiled in what had been a four-decade long tradition of ceremonies. A Pete Souza photograph of Obama in the Oval Office currently stands in its place. President Donald Trump’s administration postponed the ceremony indefinitely in May 2020.

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Amy Sherald // Smithsonian Institution

First Lady: Michelle Obama

- Years active: 2009–2017

Similarly to her presidential husband, First Lady Michelle Obama’s official White House portrait has yet to be officially unveiled in the White House. A photograph by Chuck Kennedy currently stands in its place. The Obamas announced in May 2020 they would not return to the White House for an unveiling until President Donald Trump has left office. Artist Amy Sherald completed the First Lady’s portrait for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery; the painting shows the former first lady donning a dress under Michelle Smith’s label (complete with a quilted pattern on the skirt that functions as a nod to the African-American design of the Gee's Bend Community in Alabama) with Obama's hand resting pensively under her chin.

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Shealah Craighead // Official White House Photo

President: Donald J. Trump

- Years active: 2017–present

Shealah Craighead took the photograph that currently stands as President Donald J. Trump’s official White House portrait. An official painting won’t be revealed until the next administration, with the Government Publishing Office releasing the official photo in October 2017. A painting of Trump by Chas Fagan is on loan to the White House Historical Association.

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White House Collection

First Lady: Melania Trump

- Years active: 2017–present

Former model and current First Lady Melania Trump’s official portrait has yet to be revealed, with her official first lady photo standing in its place. Melania Trump, who was born in Slovenia, is the first first lady born outside the United States since Louisa Catherine Adams, wife to sixth president John Quincy Adams.

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