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article imageOntario artist features Canadian Prime Minister in nude portrait

By Andrew Moran     May 18, 2012 in Politics
Kingston - Are you interested in having a nude painting of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper hanging in your living room? A portrait of the Conservative leader titled "Emperor Haute Couture" by Kingston-based artist Margaret Sutherland is selling for $5,000.
In 1863, French artist Edouard Manet produced one of the most influential and well-known paintings in art history. “Olympia” consists of a woman in the nude, a black fully-clothed maid and a black cat standing on the bed at her feet.
Many of these paintings have been done in the past, such as Titan’s 16th century painting “Venus of Urbino,” Francisco de Goya’s 1797 portrait “The Naked” and Giorgione’s 1510 artwork “Sleeping Venus.” All of these terrific works of art featured a lady in the nude.
Who would have thought that a Canadian leader would be the inspiration behind a nude painting? Kingston, Ontario-based artist Margaret Sutherland has raised the eyebrows of many in the nation as she painted a nude portrait of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The painting titled “Emperor Haute Couture” features Harper naked with people in suits surrounding him and one offering him a Tim Hortons cup on a plate. At his feet is a dog.
“It's a political satire of a contemporary political figure,” said Sutherland in an interview with QMI Agency. “A classic pose using a contemporary figure.” Indeed, the neoteric oil on canvass pays homage to Manet’s “Olympia.”
The painting is on display in the Wilson Room of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library’s central branch. It was submitted to the Kingston Arts Council's 11th Annual Juried Art Salon. You can own it for $5,000, according to The Whig.
When the painting made its way to the library, Patricia Enbright, the chief librarian, had a difficult decision to make because the nude painting would be hung in a room used for meetings and children’s recitals.
“There were some concerns about moving it, so Maggie, the artist, brought in a cloth. So we’ve been covering it just during those times," said the chief librarian. "As I said the rest of the times there is a sign saying it is the library board who made that decision to do that in consultation with the Kingston Arts Council.”
Sutherland, who has a collection of nudes on her website, said that she was annoyed by the library due to its covering it up or even removing it at various times.
This isn’t the first conservative leader to be featured in a naked way.
Last year, NOW Magazine published a computer-altered image of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford that has him just sporting boxer shorts. It stirred controversy across the city. Our very own Carolyn E. Price opined that issues like this are “what left-wing politics is all about.”
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