Politics

Sept. 2013 Last Look: California Gov. Jerry Brown’s ‘Unfinished’ Portrait

The governor's portrait from his first two terms was so unpopular it was banished to a third-floor stairwell.
September 2013
David Kidd
 

When California Gov. Jerry Brown won a third term in 2010, the blogosphere was atwitter with speculation that a new term could also mean a new official portrait. Brown’s portrait from his first tenure, from 1975 to 1983, was so wildly unpopular when it was unveiled in 1984, that rather than hang it next to the portraits of other former governors on the first floor, the state legislature banished it to a third-floor stairwell in the state Capitol building. It prompted the artist, Don Bachardy, to quip, “If you saw some of the paintings hanging in the Capitol, you’d see why I am not at all insulted that my portrait of Brown is not among them.” Unlike the more traditional and formal styles that characterize most official paintings—like Gov. Ronald Reagan’s before him—the portrait of Brown is more abstract. Lawmakers at the time said it looked as if it had been painted with “spilled ketchup and soy sauce.” Even Brown’s father wasn’t a fan, apparently telling his son that if he didn’t get a new one, he could never run for governor again. He did, and has since said that he thinks the painting looks “unfinished.” Still, he has said nothing about replacing it.

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