AUGUSTA – Family, friends and staffers gathered Saturday at the State House to witness the official unveiling of the portrait of Gov. John Baldacci, an oil-on-linen canvas that captures the essence of Maine’s 73rd chief executive.

Cape Elizabeth artist Jean Pilk painted the governor standing inside the Blaine House, with the State House dome visible in the background.

Pilk, who has painted famous national figures such as former Defense Secretary Colin Powell and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, worked with the governor and his wife, Karen, to identify items he wanted to highlight in the 36-inch-by-48-inch portrait.

Baldacci, a 55-year-old Bangor native and former U.S. congressman, asked that the painting depict a photo of his wife and their son, Jack; a photo of Baldacci with his late mother, Rosemary; and a plaque with the words of his late father, Robert: “What have you done for the people today?”

The Maine Arts Commission got responses from 17 artists who were interested in painting Baldacci. The portfolios were sent to the Baldaccis for consideration, and they chose Pilk.

Arts commission Director Donna McNeil informed the governor that he would have to sit for the painting more than once.

“You would have thought I was telling him he was going to have a root canal,” she said during a ceremony in the Rotunda.

Pilk told McNeil there were traits she liked about Baldacci.

“She loved the bone structure of his face and the fact that he moved like Fred Astaire,” McNeil said.

The state sets aside $20,000 for the governor’s portrait. Baldacci’s painting is the 141st work of art to be hung permanently in the state Capitol, according to the Maine State Museum.

The first portrait to come to the Capitol in Augusta was of George Washington in 1836.

Pilk said she enjoyed her time with the governor and first lady.

“I think the Baldaccis are so real,” she said. “I wanted to do this painting so badly.”

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

[email protected]