A new portrait will soon be hanging in the halls of the California Capitol. The official portrait of former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was unveiled today. The painting was done by Austrian-born artist Gottfired Helnwein.
Schwarzenegger says his seven years as governor were the most satisfying of his life. He says he used to dream about California every day as a child in Austria.
“But not in my wildest dreams did I ever think that one day I would be governor or that one day there would be a portrait hanging here in the state capitol,” he says. “I might have envisioned a sculpture on Muscle Beach.”
If you walk around the Capitol you may notice a trend. The portraits of Governors from the 19th and early 20th centuries are serious and dark. And then, as Building Manager and Historian Vito Sgromo points out, you get to Governor C.C. Young, who held office from 1927 to 1931.
“You’ll see he’s outside, it’s bright, he’s smiling and his hand is in his pocket,” he says. “And, in our day and age we think, well what’s the controversy? But if you put yourself back in the 1930’s it was a huge break from tradition.”
The legislature hated the portrait so much it asked Young to have it redone. When he refused it was hung in remote places so it couldn’t easily be seen. But Young’s approach stuck. Since then, Sgromo says, the portraits have been brighter. Three governors have been depicted outside. The portraits also became more about the legacy governors hoped to leave. Sgromo says that’s evident in Schwarzenegger’s portrait. It depicts him in front of the governor’s seal.
“And that was his mission, to come here and be a public servant in the purest form, in as much as he wants to do something for the State of California,” he says. “So he wanted to give something back, and he’s proud of it. So it shows him being proud that he was governor.”
Schwarzenegger’s portrait is large, more than six-feet by four-feet. But Sgromo says there are larger ones in the Capitol and there is no law regarding the size or style of the portrait.
Schwarzenegger’s portrait will hang on the third floor of the Capitol next to the portrait of former Governor Gray Davis. Schwarzenegger defeated Davis in the 2003 recall election.
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