The Brooklyn artist behind Michelle Obama’s official White House portrait, Sharon Sprung, said painting the former first lady was an honor that she’ll always remember.
“Working with Michelle was just wonderful, but being a small part of her memories — she’s an extraordinary woman,” said Sprung, recalling the time she spent with Michelle Obama, including the former first lady’s visit to her Boerum Hill studio.
“She came all the way up here and there were two security guards, or secret services, on each floor,” Sprung said.
While sitting took place in Washington DC, the portrait took shape in the Brooklyn studio. It’s an experience Sprung is unlikely to ever forget.
“I had her painting and was working on it for eight, nine months, and I would say hello in the morning and good night to Michelle,” Sprung said. “You get very intimate with the person. And, there were photographs of all kinds all over my walls, so I got an even more sense of her.”
Both portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama were unveiled earlier this month. They now hang in the White House where they’ll stay for generations, but Sprung recalls that visit to Brooklyn where the first lady got the first look.
“She just came and looked for awhile and was very quiet, and didn’t say anything, but I felt by her expression that she was moved by the portrait,” said Sprung.
Sprung’s lifelong love of portraiture continues in new works and exhibitions. She also helps other artists grow as a teacher at Art Students League of New York. She considers helping to immortalize the Obamas as one of the highlights of her 50-year career.
“I will be part of their world in a very little way, but [it’s] something that’s incredibly meaningful to me, and I think that almost means more than painting the picture,” Sprung said.