The official portraits of Gov. Larry Hogan and his wife, Yumi, are one step closer to the spots they will call home for the next several decades.
The portraits of the Hogans were the subject of what might be called a soft opening or a sneak preview during an unveiling two weeks ago. The event — a more public one will be scheduled before the next governor is sworn in — is a milestone marking the end of Hogan’s tenure in office.
“They had finished the things, and it was an unveiling for the donors to the governor’s foundation that paid for the thing,” said Hogan. “The real big deal is when you actually hang it in the governor’s reception room, which will be sometime later in the term. This was like a preseason game.”
The official portraits join a collection of paintings of Maryland governors dating back to the state’s colonial roots. Yumi Hogan’s will take its place alongside a growing collection of official portraits with more modern roots.
Those who want to get an early peek at the portraits can do so on public tours of the governor’s mansion. The tours are conducted on Tuesdays and Thursdays and usually require a reservation.
Governors and their wives have a great deal of input into the official portraits, beginning with the selection of the artists.
The Hogans chose two Maryland portrait artists.
Cedric Egeli, an impressionist painter renowned for his mastery of light, was selected to paint the portrait of the governor. Egeli also painted the portrait of Gov. Blair Lee III.
Jinchul Kim, a distinguished figurative painter and a professor of art at Salisbury University, was selected to paint Yumi Hogan’s official portrait.
“This will be the first work of art in the state’s collection by a Korean American artist,” said State Archivist Elaine Rice Bachmann. “She really is supporting him, being supportive of her own heritage and making a tremendous contribution to the state’s collection by allowing us to have a representation by a Korean American artist.”
What is uncommon, according to Rice Bachmann, “is to have a first lady who is an artist herself overseeing the process. She made visits to Cedric’s studio to see how work was going. She was the final say on things.”
Yumi Hogan is an artist who also teaches at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
In talking about “the things,” Hogan appears casually dismissive. He laughed when asked about what the portrait might say about his time in office.
The governor said he and Egeli wanted to capture the iconic State House dome on the 250th anniversary of the laying of the building’s cornerstone.
“No one had ever done that before,” said Hogan. “I thought it was kind of cool, but it’s not really symbolic of anything. If I was looking for something symbolic I’d have it painted in front of a bridge or a road or something but that wouldn’t look as good.”
But like those of the governors who preceded him, Hogan’s portrait is symbolic. The same is true of the limited number of official portraits of Maryland’s first ladies.
“A hundred years from now, everyone that comes into that space and sees the governors’ portraits will see something that represents what that person thought about their time in office in a way that a photograph just can’t,” said Rice Bachmann. “I think it’s symbolic and is timeless in a way that all the photographs, there will be many of them, are not.”
It is not just the State House that makes Hogan’s portrait unique.
“It’s brilliant because it puts him also in a space that only the highest (office holder) of the state can achieve — being a resident of Government House,” said Rice Bachmann.
Hogan is dressed in a suit wearing a purple tie — his symbol of bipartisanship — and holding his glasses. It’s not hard to imagine the portrait in a corporate boardroom.
Behind him are the well-known Palladian windows of the Empire Room. Peeking over his shoulder is the State House dome.
Yumi Hogan’s portrait features her inside the green Federal Reception Room wearing a traditional Korean hanbok.
Mrs. Hogan, a Korean immigrant, is the country’s first Asian American first lady.
The room in which she is featured was one she decorated.
“It’s really a brilliant portrait,” said Rice Bachmann. “She really wanted to make her own impact on the rooms and it really shows the room, the Empire Room and goes all the way out to the conservatory in showing some of the furnishings of the house, as well.
In an era of a digital camera in almost every pocket, portraits seem old-fashioned.
“Photography is ubiquitous in our time,” said Rice Bachmann. “There could be literally thousands of images of Governor Hogan and the first lady and of course any governor really since the age of photography. We have lots of photographs of them but there’s only been one official painted portrait.”
Those portraits also tell a story.
“Governor’s portraits over the past — if you look around the room, Governor (J. Millard) Tawes chose to have a portrait of his wife included in his portrait,” said Rice Bachmann. “That was very unusual in the 1950s. There’s a reason for that. He was interested in having a double portrait. He included Mrs. Tawes because he very much wanted to honor her role as well.”
The Maryland Archives, the official conservator of the state’s art collection, holds official portraits of every Maryland governor dating back to the colonial beginning of the state.
Some are in storage. Others hung in various state buildings.
Hogan’s portrait will join a group of eight portraits of modern governors inside the Governor’s Reception Room on the second floor of the State House. The portraits are a rotating representation of the state’s leaders.
As one is added, the portraits move one space over. The portrait closest to the doors of the governor’s office suite — in this case Tawes — moves from the reception room to that outer office.
Hogan’s part of a trend that eschews darker backgrounds.
When Hogan’s portrait is hung he will likely be placed on the wall next to Parris Glendening. Martin O’Malley, Hogan’s predecessor, has yet to turn his portrait over to the state.
Glendening’s portrait broke from tradition. Glendening stands inside the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge wearing a sport jacket over a golf shirt. The image highlights the former governor’s environmental work.
Similarly, the portrait of Robert Ehrlich, painted in a hyper-realism style, features the Republican perched on the corner of his desk.
On the desktop are three bills he considered important. Photos of his wife, Kendall Ehrlich, and the couple’s two children also appear in the portrait.
“That was very much an echo of what Governor Tawes did,” Rice Bachmann said.
The history of official portraits of First Ladies of Maryland is much shorter.
“There was not a formal tradition of creating a first lady’s portrait until 1951 with Mrs. Tawes … who was a character in her own right,” said Rice Bachmann.
Helen Avalynne Tawes, noting the obscurity of first ladies, lobbied the General Assembly to pay for official portraits of herself and five of her predecessors.
“This is a very glamorous gallery of ladies,” said Rice Bachmann. “They’re all painted together. They all very much represent this fashionable lady of the ‘50s. There’s furs and long white gloves. They have a very distinct look.”
Stanislav Rembski, by virtue of painting all six of those early portraits, has painted the most official portraits of Maryland First Ladies.
The native of Poland moved to Baltimore in 1940 and became “the society portrait artist of his day in Maryland,” said Rice Bachmann.
Those first ladies who followed Helen Avalynne Tawes added their own distinctive style to the collection.
Pat Hughes was noted for her work on seven period rooms in the mansion, including one known then as the Billy Baldwin room. The room, now called the conservatory, featured the work of the Baltimore-born designer.
Her official portrait features her in that room “with a modern sculpture over her shoulder. It goes right to what she considers the hallmark of her time,” said Rice Bachmann.
Francis Hughes Glendenning, the former wife of Parris Glendenning, was painted by Aaron Shikler, whose works are in the White House.
“It is a very elegant, very glamorous portrait, very reflective of Shikler’s work,” said Rice Bachmann.
The portraits of first ladies are hung inside the mansion in areas accessible to the public.
But it was Yumi Hogan who featured them more prominently.
“There was so many, they had gotten so far up the stairwell that the public couldn’t see them,” said Rice Bachmann. “It was she who very early on in her time in Government House had these ladies from the 1950s to the present day placed inside the Victorian Parlor to make it a gallery of first ladies.”
That room, which is also on a public tour, features eight to nine women, including Hilda Mae Snoops.
Snoops, known as “the official hostess,” was a longtime companion of former Gov. William Donald Schaefer. She is the only woman who was not a spouse to a governor to have an official portrait to hang alongside Maryland’s first ladies.
What it costs
The portraits are not cheap, Rice Bachmann said.
A portrait of William Donald Schaefer with his dog, Willie, and a portrait of Snoops was commissioned for $40,000.
The portrait of Parris Glendening was commissioned for $35,000.
The portraits of the Hogans were commissioned for a combined $100,000, said Rice Bachmann.
No public funds are used to pay for the artwork.
The portraits are paid for through private donations raised through a private foundation. Each governor establishes one during his or her tenure to help offset the costs of upkeep at the mansion as well as the official portraits.
The portraits can show some unexpected sides of Maryland’s governors.
Schaefer’s portrait languished in storage with the State Archives. A rivalry between Schaefer and his successor, Parris N. Glendening, may have played a role.
Schaefer left office in 1995. The irascible Baltimore mayor who became governor had a tendency to irritate Glendening.
So the painting sat until December 1996. In the meantime, Glendening had the official portrait of Republican former Gov. Spiro Agnew pulled from storage and hung with his peers. Agnew, who resigned in disgrace as vice president, had been absent from the reception room since 1979.
Detente between the two men ended before most paint can dry and soon Schaefer would return to the State House as comptroller. He continued to rib and needle Glendening from a seat just inches away.
Glendening, perhaps not wanting someone else to control the ceremony for his own portrait, held an official hanging the week before Ehrlich was sworn in.
The state has yet to hang the portraits of O’Malley and his wife, former Circuit Court Judge Katie Curran O’Malley.
Portraits of both are complete but not yet gifted to the state, said Rice Bachmann.
Some believe, after almost eight years, that the Democratic former governor is delaying his unveiling until another Democrat leads the state.
“When Governor O’Malley does give his portrait to the state, we will just have to bump another person out of the room and slot (O’Malley) in the appropriate chronological order,” said Rice Bachmann.