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Former Gov. Charlie Crist's portrait unveiled in Capitol

The official portrait of former Gov. Charlie Crist, painted by Pensacola artist Jeff Bass, was unveiled Monday at the state Capitol.

MICHAEL C. BENDER | Times

The official portrait of former Gov. Charlie Crist, painted by Pensacola artist Jeff Bass, was unveiled Monday at the state Capitol.

TALLAHASSEE — Inherent in the rise — and fall — of former Gov. Charlie Crist is that much of the time he let voters see in him whatever they liked.

But there are no two ways to look at Crist's official portrait.

It's only him.

Crist, 54, returned to the Capitol on Monday for the unveiling of his official portrait that is as realistic as it is stark. The three-quarter view of Florida's 44th governor will hang alongside those of his most recent predecessors in a first-floor walkway outside the office he held for four years.

Crist applauded when the crimson drape was pulled back from the 4-foot-high, 3-foot-wide portrait. He nodded to the artist, Jeff Bass, thanked him and shook his hand.

"Look at me and look at it," Crist said later. "He did a great job. I couldn't be happier."

Unlike most of the portraits of his predecessors, Crist's includes no personal items from his time in office.

Jeb Bush stands next to a portrait of his family and his BlackBerry in its charger. Lawton Chiles included his walking boots. Bob Graham's trusty notebook rests in his lap.

Crist, meanwhile, stands next to a Florida flag in front of a black background, his right hand buried in his pocket while the left rests on a chair, his wedding band in view.

Crist is in a pin-striped suit, a white straight-collar shirt and a mostly yellow tie, the only governor hanging in the first floor hallway without predominantly red or blue neckwear.

Crist said he gave little direction to Bass, who also painted Bush's portrait.

"I just love the state and didn't want to distract with anything else," Crist said.

Bass painted Crist's portrait from a photograph taken at the Governor's Mansion. The cost is unknown.

The Pensacola-based artist prefers to paint in person, but Crist could not find time for a sitting when Bass needed him, during the oil spill aftermath and his U.S. Senate campaign.

"There were a lot of moving parts to his schedule," Bass said.

For the unveiling, Crist was joined in the first-floor lobby by his wife, Carole, family, friends, former staffers and teachers union officials.

Gov. Rick Scott and his wife, Ann, also attended. Scott thanked Crist for his service and help during the transition.

Crist said he was humbled by the portrait. "I just want you to know how meaningful this is to me and my family," Crist told the crowd of about 100. "I love Florida with all my heart. And the opportunity to serve was a privilege greater than I ever imagined."

Michael C. Bender can be reached at mbender@sptimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelCBender.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist's portrait unveiled in Capitol 04/18/11 [Last modified: Monday, April 18, 2011 8:29pm]
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