Main Content

This background sheet explores the official presidential portraits of presidents and first ladies, beginning with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Many of these White House portraits were commissioned, paid for, and gifted to the White House by the White House Historical Association.

The White House Historical Association has had an active role in acquiring and donating portraits of recent presidents and first ladies since 1965 when the Association sought to acquire a portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt from the widow of artist Douglas Granville Chandor. Since that time, it has been a fundamental goal to acquire historic portraits of presidents and first ladies, “either to represent those not in the collection or to replace earlier likenesses judged less than successful.” Presidents and first ladies typically select their respective artists before leaving the White House. The finished portraits are approved by them before their formal presentation to the public and induction into the White House Collection.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter unveiled the official White House portraits of former President Gerald Ford and former First Lady Betty Ford in an East Room ceremony. Although Carter himself asked not to have a ceremony, all other presidents and first ladies since have participated in an unveiling ceremony at the White House several years after leaving office. These ceremonies are often bi-partisan events with warm greetings and collegial speeches exchanged by the president and their predecessor. The most recent unveiling took place in 2012 when President Barack Obama unveiled the White House portraits of former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush.

Please credit The White House Historical Association by its full name when using this as background material. Specific sources consulted available upon request.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Artist: Frank O. Salisbury

Date: 1947

Dimensions: 50 ¼ x 40 ⅜ in.

Gift of Myron C. Taylor

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This 1934 oil on canvas portrait was painted by Frank O. Salisbury. Although the artist had difficulty finding enough time for the president to sit, Roosevelt eventually sat for this portrait in the Oval Office. This painting was for the Genealogical Society of New York, but a copy was later acquired for the White House.

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

Artist: Douglas Granville Chandler

Date: 1949

Dimensions: 49 ⅛ x 38 ¼ in.

Gift of the White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

Although she sat for several portraits as first lady, this oil on canvas portrait was painted by Douglas Granville Chandor after Eleanor Roosevelt’s time in the White House. In 1949, she sat for the portrait at her New York residence. It was commissioned by her son, Elliot. Upon its completion, the portrait remained in the artist’s possession, along with a matching portrait of Franklin. In 1965, the White House Historical Association received the blessing of the Roosevelt family to negotiate with Chandor’s widow to acquire the painting for the White House. It was successfully purchased for the White House Collection. On February 4, 1966, First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson invited more than 250 guests to the White House for the presentation of Eleanor Roosevelt's official portrait. Prior to this, no portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt existed in the White House Collection. The matching portrait of Franklin Roosevelt went to the National Portrait Gallery in 1968.

Harry Truman

Artist: Martha Greta Kempton

Date: 1947

Dimensions: 50 x 40 ¼ in.

Gift of anonymous donors

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This oil on canvas portrait of President Harry Truman was painted by Martha Greta Kempton in 1947. Kempton painted Truman from multiple sittings at the White House in the spring of 1947. Kempton would also paint the portrait of Truman’s wife, First Lady Elizabeth “Bess” Truman.

Elizabeth (Bess) Wallace Truman

Artist: Martha Greta Kempton

Date: 1952

Dimensions: 32 x 26 in.

Gift of the White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This oil on canvas portrait of First Lady Elizabeth “Bess” Wallace Truman was painted by Martha Greta Kempton. Sittings were probably done at Blair House, as the White House was undergoing a major renovation between 1948 and 1952. This painting was completed in 1952. In 1967 the White House Historical Association gifted a copy of the painting to the White House Collection.

Dwight David Eisenhower

Artist: James Anthony Wills

Date: 1967, oil on panel

Dimensions: 48 X 38 inches

Donor: Harry Darby

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This portrait of Dwight Eisenhower was given to the White House in September 1967. James Anthony Wills painted several portraits of Eisenhower, later becoming his preferred portraitist after his presidency. Wills created portraits for Eisenhower's Gettysburg farm, the Dwight Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, and at El Dorado Country Club in Palm Desert, California.

Artist: Thomas Edgar Stephens

Date: 1960

Dimensions: 50 x 40 in.

Acquisition undocumented

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This portrait was painted in 1960 by artist Thomas Edgar Stephens toward the end of Eisenhower's second term in office. It was done from both photographs and sittings but was not produced at the White House. However, Stephens did go to the White House and Eisenhower’s Gettysburg farm for sittings with the president. Unfortunately, the acquisition of this painting is undocumented.

Mamie Geneva Doud Eisenhower

Artist: Thomas Edgar Stephens

Date: 1959

Dimensions: 42 ⅜ x 34 ⅜ in.

Acquisition undocumented

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This oil on canvas portrait was painted by Thomas Edgar Stevens. It was done toward the end of the Eisenhower administration from photographs and sittings. Unfortunately, the acquisition of this painting is undocumented.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Artist: Aaron Shikler

Date: 1970

Dimensions: 50 x 34 in.

Gift of the White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This oil on canvas portrait was painted by Aaron Shikler. This portrait was completed seven years after President Kennedy’s assassination. The portrait was a combination of photographs of the president and his brother Edward “Ted” Kennedy, as well as Mrs. Kennedy’s commentary. The finished product is a “vague, imprecise portrait.” While there wasn’t an official ceremony to unveil the Kennedy portraits, President Richard Nixon and First Lady Patricia Nixon hosted Jacqueline Kennedy and her children at the White House to see the portraits before they were publicly displayed. The portrait was later placed on display in the East Room on February 5, 1971. This portrait was the gift of the White House Historical Association.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy

Artist: Aaron Shikler

Date: 1970

Dimensions: 48 x 32 in.

Gift of the White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This oil on canvas portrait of First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy was painted by Aaron Shikler. It was done from sittings at her New York apartment several years after the death of her husband, President Kennedy. While there wasn’t an official ceremony to unveil the Kennedy portraits, President Richard Nixon and First Lady Patricia Nixon hosted Jacqueline Kennedy and her children at the White House to see the portraits before they were publicly displayed. Her portrait was later placed on display in the East Room on February 5, 1971, alongside President Kennedy’s portrait. This portrait was the gift of the White House Historical Association.

Lyndon Baines Johnson

Artist: Elizabeth Shoumatoff

Date: 1968

Dimensions: 31 ⅝ x 26 ½ in.

Gift of the White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This oil on canvas portrait of President Lyndon Johnson was painted by Elizabeth Shoumatoff in 1968. While President Johnson admired this work, he was less enthusiastic about his first artistic rendering. President Johnson’s first presidential portrait was completed in 1967 by Peter Hurd, an artist best known for his western landscapes and portraits. When the portrait was presented, President Johnson was very unhappy with its appearance calling it “the ugliest thing I ever saw.” Johnson refused to have the painting represent him in the White House. The subsequent tension between the two men played out in the press with Hurd stating in The Washington Post, “He hasn’t the vaguest concept of how art works."

After Johnson’s first portrait was rejected, it was sent over to the National Portrait Gallery where it remains today. President Johnson chose to have a second portrait done by Elizabeth Shoumatoff. Shoumatoff had previously completed a portrait of Franklin Roosevelt. Shoumatoff was initially brought to the White House in 1968 to paint Lady Bird Johnson’s portrait. During Lady Bird’s last sitting, Shoumatoff brought in President Johnson to offer his opinion. He was quite impressed with the portrait and called back over his shoulder as he exited the room, “tell her she can sign up to start painting me right away.”

Shoumatoff began working on the president’s second portrait in April 1968 and completed it in late July. This is the official portrait of President Lyndon Johnson in the White House Collection. It was commissioned by the White House Historical Association.

Claudia (Lady Bird) Taylor Johnson

Artist: Elizabeth Shoumatoff

Date: 1968

Dimensions: 31 ⅝ x 26 ½ in.

Gift of the White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This oil on canvas portrait was painted by Elizabeth Shoumatoff. According to historian William Seale, her portrait “is one of the best likenesses of any in the White House” because it captured Lady Bird’s beauty better than a photograph ever could. Lady Bird began sitting for this portrait on November 1, 1967 in the Lincoln Sitting Room. Over the course of five months, she sat a total of five times. This portrait was a gift of the White House Historical Association.

Richard Milhous Nixon

Artist: James Anthony Wills

Date: 1984

Dimensions: 45 ¾ x 34 ⅞ in.

Gift of Richard M. Nixon

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This oil on canvas portrait was painted by James Anthony Wills in 1984, many years after President Nixon had resigned from office. It was commissioned and paid for by Richard Nixon himself. The former president donated it to the White House Collection in 1984, replacing the Alexander Clayton portrait as Nixon’s “official” presidential portrait. Both remain in the White House Collection today.

Artist: Alexander Clayton

Date: 1981

Dimensions: 40 x 32 in.

Gift of the White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This portrait by Alexander Clayton was completed in 1981. Former president Richard Nixon posed for this portrait at his New York City residence in 1981. The background is in the Oval Office as he sits at his desk. While there was no official ceremony, it was first displayed on the White House State Floor on November 20, 1981. It was donated by the White House Historical Association.

Patricia Ryan Nixon

Artist: Henriette Wyeth

Date: 1978

Dimensions: 45 ⅞ x 36 in.

Gift of the White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This oil on canvas portrait of First Lady Patricia Nixon was painted by Henriette Wyeth in 1978. It was completed four years after she left the White House. This portrait was a gift of the White House Historical Association.

Gerald Rudolph Ford

Artist: Everett Raymond Kinstler

Date: 1977

Dimensions: 40 x 34 in.

Gift of the White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This oil on canvas portrait was painted by Everett Raymond Kinstler. President Ford sat for this painting in Vail, Colorado. The tradition of inviting former presidents and first ladies back to the White House to unveil their portrait began with this ceremony. On May 24, 1978, President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter unveiled the White House portraits of former President Gerald R. Ford and former First Lady Betty Ford in the East Room of the White House. The Fords were in attendance, starting the tradition of inviting former presidents and first ladies back to formally unveil their portraits. Ford spoke proudly of the White House portraits, telling those in the East Room that “our portraits will be here in the President's house and will reflect our great love and affection for this place and all that it means to the American people.” This portrait was a gift of the White House Historical Association.

Elizabeth (Betty) Bloomer Ford

Artist: Felix De Cossio

Date: 1977

Dimensions: 36 x 30 in.

Gift of the White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This oil on canvas portrait was painted by Felix de Cossio in 1977 after Mrs. Ford’s time in the White House. Mrs. Ford sat for this painting in Vail, Colorado. On May 24, 1978, President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter unveiled the White House portraits of former President Gerald R. Ford and former First Lady Betty Ford in the East Room of the White House. This portrait was a gift of the White House Historical Association.

Jimmy Carter

Artist: Herbert Abrams

Date: 1982 oil on canvas

Dimensions: 38 1/16th X 32 1/16th

Gift of anonymous donor

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This oil on canvas painting was completed by renowned American portraitist Herbert Abrams in 1982 after Carter's presidency. The painting became Carter's official presidential portrait. This portrait was hung on a wall in the State Floor of the White House on March 17, 1983. President Carter specifically requested that there be no ceremony. Despite Carter’s lack of an unveiling ceremony, the tradition picked up again with President Ronald Reagan’s portrait ceremony.

Eleanor Rosalynn Carter

Artist: George Augusta

Date: 1984

Dimensions: 36 x 30 in

Gift of White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This oil on canvas portrait was painted by American artist George Augusta in 1984, a few years after the end of Jimmy Carter's administration. Rosalynn Carter returned to Washington to sit for this portrait at Blair House. At President Carter’s request, there was no portrait unveiling ceremony for his or the first lady’s portraits. This was a gift of the White House Historical Association.

Ronald Wilson Reagan

Artist: Everett Raymond Kinstler

Date: 1991

Dimensions: 50 ½ x 40 ⅛ in.

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joe L. Allbritton

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This oil on canvas portrait of President Ronald Reagan was painted by Everett Raymond Kinstler in 1991. Kinstler has also painted portraits of Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, Jimmy Carter, Richard M. Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. His portraits of Reagan and Gerald R. Ford are considered the official White House presidential portraits. This portrait was painted after Reagan left office. Although there was a portrait unveiling ceremony on November 15, 1989, this was not the portrait displayed. President Reagan did not like his initial portrait done by Aaron Shikler, who also painted the Kennedys. Everett Raymond Kinstler was commissioned to create this replacement.

Artist: Aaron Shikler

Date: 1989

Dimensions: 50 1/16 x 34 ⅛ in.

Gift of the White House Historical Association and the Petrie Foundation

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This portrait of Ronald Reagan was painted in 1989 by Aaron Shikler, a portraitist known for his paintings of prominent American politicians and celebrities. In addition to Reagan, who posed for this portrait at the end of his presidency, Shikler also painted portraits of President John F. Kennedy and first ladies Jacqueline Kennedy and Nancy Reagan. Despite the success of Shikler’s earlier Kennedy portrait, this portrait was heavily criticized. Reagan sat for this portrait several times and Shikler took photographs during the sittings. Shikler’s first effort at painting Reagan was so dissatisfactory to Nancy Reagan that he was compelled to start over. The second attempt was commissioned by the White House Historical Association.

On November 15, 1989, this portrait was officially unveiled at the White House in a ceremony attended by the Reagans, members of the White House Historical Association, and members of Reagan’s White House staff. During this ceremony President Bush remarked, “They are donated jointly to the White House for its permanent art collection by the Petrie Foundation and the White House Historical Association.” Bush also noted that the portrait reflected “the qualities that make him so special: kindness, gallantry, decency, and humor.” President Reagan responded with a speech where he stated, “To live in this great house, this unique American symbol of freedom and democracy, is a special privilege and a sacred trust. To work here, too, is an opportunity which few have; but for those who do, we're forever linked in the great adventure known as history."

Nancy David Reagan

Artist: Aaron Shikler

Date: 1987

Dimensions: 44 ⅛ x 24 in.

Gift of the White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This oil on canvas portrait was painted by Aaron Shikler. Nancy Regan only sat for Shikler in New York, although he did take photos of her at the White House in 1985. This portrait was officially unveiled at the White House on November 15, 1989 alongside a portrait of Ronald Reagan, also by Shikler. During the ceremony President Bush said of Mrs. Reagan’s portrait, “It will hang in the Ground Floor Corridor with those of the most recent former First Ladies. Here stands a person who refurbished the White House with grace and with elegance, who helped millions of Americans say no to drugs and started what has become a real crusade across our country—thank God—no to drugs and yes to life.” This painting was a gift of the White House Historical Association.

George Herbert Walker Bush

Artist: Herbert E. Abrams

Date: 1994

Dimensions: 50 ¼ x 40 ⅛ in

Gift of Robert E. and Elizabeth W. Krueger

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This painting by Herbert E. Abrams is President George H. W. Bush's official White House portrait. This portrait was officially unveiled on July 17, 1995. The Bush family and many staff members of the Bush administration returned to the White House to attend the festivities. It was a light-hearted ceremony honoring George and Barbara Bush. President Clinton remarked, “President Bush's portrait will hang out here in the Grand Foyer, across from the portrait of President Franklin Roosevelt, the Commander in Chief he served in World War II. It will stand as a reminder of George Bush's basic integrity and decency and of his entire adult lifetime devoted to public service. Most of all, it will stand as a testimony to a leader who helped Americans move forward toward common ground on many fronts. We see this clearly in the causes George Bush led us in as President, causes that aimed at improving the lives not just of Republicans but of all Americans.”

Barbara Pierce Bush

Artist: Charles A. Fagan

Date: 2005

Dimensions: 38 x 31 11/16 in

Gift of Britt and Kaye Rice

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This portrait of First Lady Barbara Bush was done by Charles Fagan. This was not the portrait presented at the 1995 unveiling ceremony. Mrs. Bush did not like her first portrait and had this second painting completed in 2005, ten years after the original portrait was unveiled. Millie, the family’s English springer spaniel who lived with the Bushes and gave birth to a litter of puppies in the White House, can be seen at the bottom left.

Artist: Herbert E. Abrams

Date: 1994

Dimensions: 38 X 31 ⅞ in

Gift of Robert E. and Elizabeth W. Krueger

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This painting was done by Herbert E. Abrams. It was officially unveiled at the White House on July 17, 1995. Barbara Bush attended the ceremony with President Bush and many former members of their staff. During the ceremony both of them had an Abrams portrait unveiled. During President Clinton’s remarks he noted, “Mrs. Bush's portrait will hang adjacent to the Vermeil Room on the ground floor corridor, taking her place in history in the line of America's First Ladies. One role of the First Lady is to open the doors to the White House. Mrs. Bush will be in the hearts of Americans forever for the gracious way in which she opened so many doors, not just to this house but to a world of endless possibility through reading.” She would later have a second portrait completed to replace this one as her official White House portrait.

William Jefferson Clinton

Artist: Simmie Knox

Date: 2002

Dimensions: 56 x 44 ⅛ in.

Gift of the White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This portrait of President Bill Clinton was painted by renowned African-American artist Simmie Knox in 2002 after Clinton left office. Knox, who also painted a portrait of First Lady Hillary Clinton, was the first African American selected to complete an official White House portrait. Both portraits of the Clintons debuted in the East Room of the White House on June 14, 2004. During the ceremony President George W. Bush gave a warm speech praising Clinton. He stated, “Over eight years, it was clear that Bill Clinton loved the job of the Presidency. He filled this house with energy and joy. He's a man of enthusiasm and warmth, who could make a compelling case and effectively advance the causes that drew him to public service.” This portrait was a gift of the White House Historical Association.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Artist: Simmie Knox

Date: 2003

Dimensions: 47 15/16 x 36 in.

Gift of the White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This portrait of First Lady Hillary Clinton was painted by renowned African-American artist Simmie Knox in 2002 after the Clintons left the White House. Knox, who also painted a portrait of President Clinton, became the first African American selected to complete an official White House portrait. Both portraits of the Clintons by Knox debuted in the East Room of the White House on June 14, 2004. During the ceremony, President Bush stated, “It takes an extraordinary person to campaign and win the United States Senate. She has proven herself more equal to the challenge, and she takes an interesting spot on American history today, for she is the only sitting Senator whose portrait hangs in the White House.” On the table stands a dinner plate of the china service donated to the White House in commemoration of its 200th anniversary. This service was also given to the White House by the White House Historical Association.

George Walker Bush

Artist: John Howard Sanden

Date: 2011

Dimensions: 49 3/4 x 40 1/8 in. (126.4 x 101.9 cm)

Gift of the White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This painting by John Howard Sanden is President George W. Bush's official White House Portrait. This portrait was officially unveiled at the White House on May 31, 2012. President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, George W. Bush, and Laura Bush all made statements about the paintings during this light-hearted event in the East Room. George H.W. and Barbara Bush also attended the ceremony. The background is the Oval Office, and behind President Bush is W.H.D. Koerner’s “A Charge to Keep,” one of his favorite paintings. The portrait was a gift of the White House Historical Association.

Laura Lane Welch Bush

Artist: John Howard Sanden

Date: 2012

Dimensions: 48 x 28 in. (121.9 x 71.1 cm)

Gift of the White House Historical Association

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

This painting by John Howard Sanden is First Lady Laura Bush's official portrait. This portrait was officially unveiled at the White House on May 31, 2012. President Obama, Michelle Obama, George W. Bush, and Laura Bush all made statements about the paintings during this light-hearted event in the East Room. President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush also attended the ceremony. At the ceremony Laura Bush quipped, “It was really gracious of you to invite us back to the White House to hang a few family pictures. Nothing makes a house a home like having portraits of its former occupants staring down at you from the walls.” The background is the Green Room, which underwent refurbishing during Mrs. Bush’s time in the White House. The painting was a gift of the White House Historical Association.

Please credit The White House Historical Association by its full name when using this as background material. Specific sources consulted available upon request.

Media Contacts

For all media inquiries and image requests, contact press@whha.org.

About the white house historical association

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. She sought to inspire Americans, especially children, to explore and engage with American history and its presidents. In 1961, the nonprofit, nonpartisan White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion’s legacy for generations to come. Supported entirely by private resources, the Association’s mission is to assist in the preservation of the state and public rooms, fund acquisitions for the White House permanent collection, and educate the public on the history of the White House. Since its founding, the Association has given more than $50 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission.

To learn more about the White House Historical Association, please visit WhiteHouseHistory.org.

Find us on...

Keep Browsing?