Glendening gets casual in official portrait

Governor pictured outdoors and out of suit and tie

January 03, 2003|By John Woestendiek | John Woestendiek,SUN STAFF

The official portrait of outgoing Gov. Parris N. Glendening - standing in a sports shirt and jacket at an Eastern Shore wildlife preserve - will be unveiled next week in a ceremony at the Maryland State House.

The $35,000 portrait, painted by well-known New York portrait artist John Howard Sanden and paid for by private donations, will hang in the Governor's Reception Room along with those of 11 of the state's previous governors.

After the ceremony, scheduled for noon Thursday, the painting becomes property of the State Archives.

Glendening began making arrangements for his portrait less than midway through his first term, holding a May 1996 lunch at the mansion to begin raising funds - through the Government House Foundation - for his portrait and one of his wife at the time, Frances Glendening.

William Meyers, president of the foundation, which raised money for the portraits and for non-state-funded improvements to the governor's mansion, said the contract for the governor's portrait was $35,000.

Before yesterday, he said, the amount had been kept secret "in the unlikely event the governor did not approve of the portrait."

Part of the money raised by the foundation will also pay for a portrait of Frances Glendening, he said. As for a portrait of the governor's current wife, Meyers said, "There is no plan for that."

The governor married Jennifer Crawford last year after divorcing Frances Glendening, who, while first lady, worked to promote the arts and started the state's collection of portraits of Maryland's first ladies. Funds left in the Government House Foundation at the end of Glendening's term will, as required, be used for charitable purposes, Meyers said.

With the hanging of Glendening's portrait in the reception room, one former governor - Emerson C. Harrington (1916-1920) - will have to depart. The walls are big enough to hold only the past 12 governors.

Of those, the three-quarter-length portrait of Glendening will be the only one depicting a governor outdoors. Sanden said the governor suggested using the wildlife preserve as the backdrop, having just been there to make a speech.

"You don't always have to be standing in front of a flag or a fireplace or a Grecian column," Sanden said.

Probably more rare than its outdoor setting, Sanden said, is that, in the portrait, Glendening is wearing neither suit nor tie.

"That's definitely not the norm," said Sanden, whose clients include hundreds of prominent political, religious and corporate leaders. "There are an awful lot of white shirts and business suits."

Glendening did not pose at the preserve, Sanden said, but he provided photographs taken of him there. Sanden later visited the site.

Glendening, after choosing Sanden to do the portrait, attended four sittings, each about 90 minutes - two in the governor's mansion and two in Sanden's New York City studio, Sanden said.

He described Glendening as "a very enjoyable and interesting man" who sat patiently during the sessions. "He was great."

Sanden paints about 20 portraits a year, and Glendening was his third governor. Last year, he painted outgoing North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt Jr.

Sanden, who will attend Thursday's unveiling, said Glendening seemed pleased with the work.

"In my studio, he was complimentary. We corroborated on it very closely. With portraits you have to. ... If your client's not happy you've failed, you've just simply failed."

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