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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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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  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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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