Schwarzenegger returns to Capitol to unveil portrait

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gets a hug from John Masterson, 28, who has Down syndrome, after he unveiled his official portrait at the Capitol
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Arnold Schwarzenegger, who rose to international fame as a bodybuilder and action-movie star, has always loomed large, and now he will have a permanently oversized presence in the California Capitol.

On Monday, he unveiled his official gubernatorial portrait, a hyper-realistic painting that is more than 6 feet high. It’s at least 1,000 square inches bigger than the portrait of former Gov. Gray Davis — whom Schwarzenegger ousted in the 2003 recall election — making it the largest among those of recent California governors.

In fact, size was the theme throughout Monday’s ceremony.

Schwarzenegger described California as a place where people “refuse to think small.”


“We were never afraid to dream big,” he said. “It is in our DNA as Californians.”

Schwarzenegger, an immigrant from Austria, chose Austrian-born artist Gottfried Helnwein to paint the portrait and paid for it himself.

In a statement, Helnwein described Schwarzenegger as “larger than life.” Creating the portrait “was quite a challenge, and I enjoyed every moment of it,” he said.

The image — described by observers as “regal” and “huge” — shows a smiling, younger-looking Schwarzenegger in front of the governor’s seal.


The unveiling, held in the ornate Capitol rotunda, was a reminder of the circus-like atmosphere that surrounded Schwarzenegger’s administration. Introducing Schwarzenegger, Gov. Jerry Brown took stock of the crush of television cameras and joked, “Arnold, you’ve still got it.”

Brown summed up Schwarzenegger’s seven turbulent years in office by saying, “You did a hell of a lot. Just like everybody else, you had your flaws.”

Monday marked Schwarzenegger’s first trip to Sacramento since Brown’s inauguration in January 2011. He’s spent the intervening years traveling the world, creating an eponymous think tank at USC and starring in more action movies.

Earlier in the day, he had been at a climate change conference hosted by the California Environmental Protection Agency, where he highlighted his work combating greenhouse gas emissions.


Some of the biggest initiatives being advanced by Brown today — the $68-billion bullet train and the cap-and-trade program that imposes fees on polluters — were started during Schwarzenegger’s administration.

“While the politicians in Washington can’t get anything done because they’re stuck in these ideological foxholes, we here in California have two governors from two different parties in the same room fighting for the same green energy future,” Schwarzenegger said.

He recounted battling naysayers who thought cap-and-trade, which aims to lower pollution by charging fees to polluters, would harm the economy and cost California jobs.

“They were wrong,” he said. “We were right.”


Twitter: @chrismegerian