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Hidden Details You May Have Missed

Robert McCurdy painted President Barack Obama against a plain white background, which was meant to establish a direct relationship between the subject and the viewer.

President Barack Obama is seen in an official White House portrait painted by Robert McCurdy.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

McCurdy’s signature painting style features his subjects against white backgrounds, an aesthetic that stands out among more traditional presidential portraits.

“They have plain white backgrounds, nobody gestures, there are no props, because we’re not here to tell the story of the person that’s sitting for them. We’re here to create an encounter between the viewer and the sitter,” McCurdy said in an interview with the White House Historical Association. “The viewer will bring their emotional and historical package to that moment, and it will be different for every single one.”

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