The painting called "Emperor Haute Couture" by Kingston artist Margaret Sutherland made headlines back in May this year when it was displayed in a Kingston library. The artist painted the nude as a satire after she was peeved by a number of Harper government moves, including the elimination of the long term census and the closure of some prison farms. Sutherland
“The political message is to look for yourself and don’t necessarily believe the party line."
The title of the painting, Emperor Haute Couture carries a satirical reference to the fairy tale "The Emperor's New Clothes," in which a vain king parades around naked. The painting was sold to an unknown buyer
for the asking price of $5,000 in late May.
Curtis Stewart filed the complaint in May shortly after the nude was first displayed and caused an uproar. In the complaint Stewart
"How do I explain this to my daughter that it is OK for anyone to do a non-authorized nude portrait of the leader of Canada and put it on display in a very public place where school-aged children come by the busload to visit?"
Kingston claimed that the painting was not a portrait but a satirical and imaginary depiction of Harper.
When children's events were scheduled in the room where the portrait was displayed, Stephen Harper was covered up. The prime minister's office was also critical of the painting but in a less moralistic manner. In a Twitter post
the Prime Minister's Office tweeted:
“On the Sutherland painting: we’re not impressed. Everyone knows the PM is a cat person.”
This is true enough and in that response Harper refuses to mount a moral high horse, as Stewart does, even though Harper could, as the accompanying photo shows. Of course there were many witty responses from opposition politicians including Liberal MP Scott Brison who said that this was one case when a Conservative cover-up was needed.
In June, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal sent Stewart a notice that it would dismiss the application because it was outside its jurisdiction to decide on the issue. Stewart had until July 19 to respond but he failed to do so. As a result, the tribunal dismissed the case on September 19. Perhaps Curtis just wanted to vent his anger rather than pursue the case.