As selfies go, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s portrait is large.
It might not quite be the size of the paintings of James H. Budd, 1895-1899, or Henry T. Gage, 1899-1903. But it’s pumped up far bigger than the paintings of, say, Ronald Reagan, Earl Warren and Pat Brown. We don’t know much about Budd or Gage. But Reagan, Warren and Brown clearly were secure enough in their accomplishments that they didn’t overcompensate by commissioning larger-than-life paintings.
Schwarzenegger’s portrait, unveiled on Monday in the Capitol rotunda, is about as far from caricature as it could be, which is, we assume, its point. The guy who became rich by playing cartoonish characters in the movies and an over-the-top governor in the Capitol looks oh-so-dignified for posterity.
The former governor’s portrait could be an airbrushed studio photo of an actor hoping to be cast as a governor, which he might have been. The portrait by Gottfried Helnwein looks like a governor who’s too perfect and has had too much work done.
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He is wearing a buttoned gray suit jacket, gray striped tie and a white shirt and is standing in front of the seal of the great state of California. We doubt there’s significance to the detail that the bear on the seal is walking into his head. This painting is not nuanced.
The Schwarzenegger on canvas is not the Schwarzenegger we knew. No cowboy boots, no leather jacket, no oversized turquoise ring, dark shades, stogies, Hummer or Harley.
His hair is a shade of brown that could be found in nature, not the orange it was sometimes tinted. He looks blow-dried and Botoxed, and grins ever so slightly. One flaw is a splotch on his lapel, as if something had been painted over, though maybe he dribbled on himself, which is unlikely.
The man still can attract cameras and a crowd. Former Assembly Speakers Willie Brown, Fabian Nuñez and Bob Hertzberg, all of them Democrats, were there, as were California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte and Abel Maldonado, the former lieutenant governor.
Many weren’t there: consultant Mike Murphy, who managed his first campaign, and Steve Schmidt, who ran his second campaign, had other engagements. So did former Gov. Pete Wilson, who had encouraged him to run. Two of Schwarzenegger’s five children attended, but not Maria Shriver, his estranged wife.
The audience included people who brought him to Sacramento such as Republican consultant Bob White, who helped bring order to the first campaign. It also included people who were there when he left, such as Susan Kennedy, his chief of staff who had served a similar function for Gray Davis, the man Schwarzenegger ousted in the 2003 recall.
In his remarks, Schwarzenegger said he never could have accomplished so much in any place other than California. That’s true. His is an only-in-California story.
And now he has donated this objet d’art to us all. It will be hung on the third floor wall of the Capitol next to paintings of Reagan, Jerry Brown, George Deukmejian, Wilson and Davis. Except for Schwarzenegger’s larger portrait, they’re all roughly the same size, even the weird one of Brown.