By Lawrence Messina
The West Virginia Capitol added a new chapter to its illustrated history on Tuesday, with the debut of the official portrait of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin memorializing his tenure as governor.
The painting by artist Larry Bruce Bishop shows the 65-year-old Democrat in a dark pinstripe suit and yellow tie. The Capitol with its gold-and-grey dome — restored under Manchin’s watch — looms large over his right shoulder.
Manchin’s is the first of the official portraits to show a governor in an outdoors setting, and also the first to depict the Capitol and its dome, Division of Culture and History officials confirmed Tuesday. It depicts Manchin smiling and with his hands in front of him as if he’s gesturing while talking — a well-known habit.
“I never did sit or pose for this. I said, ‘I’m going to be me and you take some (photos of me) and you figure it out,”’ Manchin said afterward. “He brought his work to me and I was very impressed by it.”
Manchin, former first lady Gayle Manchin and their children and grandchildren attended the unveiling ceremony at the governor’s Capitol reception room. The standing-room-only audience included a number of officials from his terms as governor.
A former legislator and secretary of state, Manchin was first elected governor in 2004. After securing a second term in 2008, Manchin stepped down in late 2010, shortly after winning a special U.S. Senate election prompted by the death of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
Manchin’s successor, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, led Tuesday’s ceremony and recounted his fellow Democrat’s rise in public service. West Virginia weathered the beginning of the Great Recession during Manchin’s time, while continuing to pay down debts and cut taxes on groceries and corporate net income. After years of delayed maintenance forced by tight finances, Manchin also oversaw a major makeover of the state Capitol and its campus.
The extensive renovations included replacing the 1980s-era gold leaf on the dome that constantly attracted black streaks of dirt. The state adopted the original alternating scheme of gold and gray envisioned by the Capitol’s famed architect, Cass Gilbert.
To Manchin, the restored dome symbolizes how West Virginia has progressed. Talking to reporters after the ceremony, he recounted how he would lead impromptu tours for guests he’d host at the nearby Governor’s Mansion.
“After dinner, I would say, ‘Come on outside, let me show you something,”’ Manchin said. “They knew that it was such an important part of who we are. It is a source of pride.”
Following tradition, the portrait will hang in the governor’s Capitol reception room along with that of Manchin’s immediate predecessor, Gov. Bob Wise. Both will eventually join the portraits of earlier governors that line the Capitol’s main corridor. Tomblin administration officials said Manchin’s portrait cost $27,664.