This is a first look at the official portrait of Brian Cowen as the Taoiseach that will hang at Leinster House – more than 11 years after he left office.
artist Blaise Smith’s painting will hang at Leinster House in September but will be on display at the RHA (Royal Hibernian Academy) from tomorrow.
Mr Cowen has suffered health problems in recent years following a stroke and has retired from public life.
The portrait shows him in a characteristic pose in front of government buildings, hands folded in front.
His brother Barry Cowen TD told that Irish Independent yesterday: “It’s long overdue and he has every right and privilege to hang there with his predecessors.”
The Office of Public Works (OPW) had a delay in commissioning the portrait, partly because of the financial crisis which wiped out Mr Cowen’s time as Prime Minister after many successful years as Treasury Secretary.
The last Taoiseach portrait erected on the Leaders’ Gallery overlooking the staircase leading to the entrance to the Dáil Chamber at Leinster House was that of Bertie Ahern by artist James Hanley.
A process to commission a formal painting of Enda Kenny is underway. The courtesy goes to former Taoisigh when they have left the Dáil.
The OPW has loaned the official portrait of Mr Cowen to the RHA Annual Show. The exhibition, which features no fewer than 570 works of art, runs until mid-August and admission is free.
The OPW paid a commission of 12,000 euros for the official portrait.
Artist Smith said it took him over a year to complete the portrait, of which Mr Cowen and his family are very pleased.
He told that Irish Independent: “The portrait I painted of Brian Cowen is like a mixture of many moments.
“It shows him during his tenure as Taoiseach and in government buildings.
“The work of a portrait painter is an elaborate process involving meetings and the development of drawings with both the sitter and the client, in this case the OPW.
“Before the final painting begins, various phases are approved.
“I’ve been working on this particular portrait for over a year.
“But the most important meeting was with Brian Cowen and his family,” he said. “It is very difficult to judge one’s own painting and having family approval gives me the confidence that I have captured the essence of the person. I’m glad they liked it.”
Mr. Cowen was Taoiseach from May 2008, after Mr. Ahern’s resignation, until March 2011.
He resigned as chairman of Fianna Fáil in January 2011 and was replaced by current Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
The portraits of 11 of the 13 former Taoisigh are currently on display in the Dáil, with Mr. Ahern’s being installed in the autumn of 2011.
James Hanley chose to dedicate much of his Ahern portrait canvas to the blue sky, reflecting the former Taoiseach’s love for the Dublin GAA team. Mr Smith will now join the ranks of prominent Irish artists to have painted a former Taoiseach.
These include Seán O’Sullivan, who painted William T. Cosgrave and John A. Costello; Leo Whelan (Éamon de Valera); Maurice MacGonigal (Sean Lemass); John F Kelly (Jack Lynch and Charles Haughey); Edward Maguire (Liam Cosgrave); Derek Hill (Garrett FitzGerald); Carey Clarke (Albert Reynolds) and Edward Plunkett (John Bruton).
Two unofficial portraits of Mr Cowen were discovered in Dublin galleries in 2009, sparking public controversy and leading to a Garda inquiry. They were displayed without permission in the National Gallery and the Royal Hibernian Academy and showed Mr Cowen from the waist up, wearing only glasses.
They were quickly removed and the guerrilla artist was identified as a Mayo teacher. No criminal charges were filed against the perpetrator.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/ex-taoiseach-brian-cowens-portrait-to-finally-go-on-display-in-leinster-house-11-years-after-he-left-office-41672951.html Ex-Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s portrait is finally on display at Leinster House, 11 years after he left office