Room isn't big enough for all 60 governors
Glendening portrait arrival means farewell, Harrington
By John Woestendiek
January 10, 2003
Annapolis - Emerson C. Harrington has left the room.
He - his likeness, anyway - had been here as long as anyone, hanging,
like those of other recent governors, from the centuries-old walls of the
governor's reception room in the State
Under Harrington's slightly bemused gaze, new governors' portraits have
come, old governors' portraits have gone, and some governors' portraits
have come and gone and come again.
As one might expect in a room that mixes politics and portraiture - both exercises in vanity, arguably - there have been a few little controversies over the years, and a whole lot of
spackling and hammering.
With the unveiling yesterday of Parris N. Glendening's official portrait, another more local ritual continued as well: the moving of the portraits.
Maryland, since statehood, has elected 60 governors, and there is space
on the reception room walls for only a fifth of them. As a result, the
exhibit, around since the 1970s, includes the
most recent dozen or so governors, arranged in reverse chronological order.
"When you get too many in there, they look scrunched," said Elaine Rice-Bachman, curator of the state Commission on Artistic Property.
So, with the scheduled hanging of an outgoing governor's portrait -
usually immediately after he leaves office - comes a shuffling in the reception
room. All other portraits are moved
down a space, and the oldest governor in the room is removed, destined for a less prestigious spot or, worse yet, storage.
This time, when the dust cleared, it was Harrington who was gone - onetime
school teacher, governor from 1916 to 1920, Democrat, backer of Prohibition
and, if his official portrait is any
indication, a man with inordinately large hands.
Ostensibly, the portrait shuffle should come every four to eight years,
depending on whether a governor is re-elected. But, with governors getting
indicted, exonerated, deemed
un-wall-worthy or once again wall-worthy, the moving of the portraits happens more often, and sometimes less often.
When Marvin Mandel's second term was interrupted in 1977 by a racketeering
conviction, work on his portrait had not begun - and it wouldn't until
16 years later, after he was
exonerated. In 1993, it was finally put up.
Blair Lee III, who finished Mandel's term, serving as acting governor, never made the governor's reception room. His portrait can be found in the "Lieutenant Governor's Hallway."
Spiro T. Agnew, the former governor who resigned as Richard Nixon's
vice president amid an investigation into kickbacks, was removed from the
exhibit by Gov. Harry Hughes in 1979
but returned by Glendening in 1995. In fact, Glendening, saying it was not the state's place to sanitize history, had Agnew's portrait returned to the room even before he put up the
portrait of his predecessor, William Donald Schaefer.
Glendening delayed its hanging nearly a year "just out of spite," Schaefer
says. "Real governors make sure the portrait is put up immediately. You
put the new portrait up and then move
one out. That's how it's done.
"It was typical of him," added Schaefer, who has had a long-running feud with the departing governor. "Unfortunately, I'll be beside him for eternity now."
Actually, it could be for as little as 44 years. After the terms of
Robert L. Ehrlich and 10 more governors, Schaefer's turn would come - assuming
the state continues to display
gubernatorial portraits in the same manner - to leave the room.
The rearranging of the portraits - whether done during a simple transition,
to avoid embarrassment or to correct the historical record - is not as
simple as moving everybody down to the
next nail. Because the portraits are of varying sizes - they usually have to be re-centered, the old holes spackled and new ones drilled.
After three decades of hanging and re-hanging governors, it's getting
harder to find a secure part of the wall in which to sink a nail. The governor's
reception room is in the oldest part of
the State House, built in the 1700s. The room is used for ceremonies, press conferences and meetings. When not in use, it is not regularly open to the public.
Three of the room's walls are dedicated to governors. The fourth features
portraits of King Charles I of England; his queen, Henrietta Maria, whom
Maryland is named after; George
Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore; and a fireplace with fake logs.
Squeezing the portraits into the room has gotten even more difficult
due to the tendency of governors to want a bigger portrait than their predecessor.
Since the 1970s, the portraits have
been steadily growing.
"That happens to be true, and you can extrapolate your own meaning from that," said Rice-Bachman.
Mandel's portrait is bigger than Agnew's. Hughes' is bigger than Mandel's.
Schaefer's is bigger than Hughes'. None, though, are as large as the portrait
- now in state archives storage - of
Thomas Holliday Hicks, governor during the Civil War. It is nearly 6 feet wide and 9 feet tall.
Glendening's portrait - intended to help cement his legacy as "the environmental
governor" - shows him in khaki slacks, polo shirt and sports jacket, standing
with one hand in his pocket,
the other on a fence rail. In the background are an egret and Marshyhope Creek, a tributary of the Nanticoke River, on the Eastern Shore.
The portrait was unveiled in a noon ceremony in the governor's conference
room. Glendening's third wife, Jennifer Crawford, and their new baby, Gabrielle,
in a rare public appearance,
assisted - and drew more attention from photographers than the portrait.
When, after speeches, the red cloth finally came off the portrait, the
roomful of supporters applauded, though one reporter quietly remarked that
it looked like cover of a Land's End
The $35,000 portrait, including the frame, is a full inch bigger than
Schaefer's, though Glendening said that was news to him. "I haven't the
vaguest idea if it's bigger," he said, adding that
they appeared about the same size.
Schaefer, whose $20,000 portrait also includes his dog, Willie II, did
not attend yesterday's ceremony. He said last week that he doubted Glendening's
portrait would be larger, but added,
"If it is, I'll object."
The state archives has more than 200 portraits in its collection, 192
of them of elected officials, including all but three of its governors
since statehood. Those three were never painted
and, with photography not having been invented yet, no likenesses of them exist.
(The state's entire Annapolis art collection can be viewed online at http://www.mdsa.net)
Portraits are also routinely painted of first ladies, second ladies,
lieutenant governors, treasurers, House speakers, Senate presidents and
more. While some are paid for with public funds,
most recent governors - all since Hughes - have had their portraits privately commissioned and funded by foundations set up for that purpose.
The governors' portraits, once dedicated, become property of the archives. After their rotation in the conference room, they could end up in any of several state buildings in Annapolis.
"There is just no room big enough to accommodate them all," said Mimi Calver, director of artistic property and public outreach for the State Archives.
Archives officials said yesterday they had not chosen a new location for Harrington's portrait. For now, it will be returned to the archives for maintenance.
As for those portraits that left the room before Harrington's, Edwin
Warfield, the 45th governor, went to the Senate chamber on the first floor
of the State House; Austin Lane Crothers,
the 46th governor, found a new home in Room 140 of the House Office Building; and Phillips Lee Goldsborough, the 47th governor, ended up on the first floor of the Legislative Services
"Always when a new session begins there's some rotating of portraits," said Rice-Bachman.
While space to hang them might someday run out - as it did, at least,
for Harrington in the conference room - it's safe to assume there will
always be a steady supply of new politician's
As English caricaturist and writer Max Beerbohm once noted, "It seems
to be a law of nature that no man, unless he has some obvious physical
deformity, ever is loth to sit for his
"These are traditions," said Schaefer. "And everybody wants to do away
with traditions. But the governor of the state is supposedly a big man.
We've had some really great governors.
People sort of forget them. It's nice to be able to take a look at them and see who they were."
John Howard Sanden, the well-known New York portrait artist who painted Glendening, says it's more than nice. It's an obligation, he says, and one that can't be met with photographs.
"Every state and the federal government maintains a visual historical
record" he said. "They'd be derelict in not doing so. I don't think there
is any case to be made that a portrait of
George Washington was not a good use of public money. It was the best money the Continental Congress ever spent."
Copyright © 2003, The Baltimore Sun