Former premier Ralph Klein apologized Thursday for showing up late for the unveiling of his official portrait at the Alberta legislature rotunda in Edmonton. ((John Ulan/Canadian Press) )

Ralph Klein apologized for being late for his own hanging Thursday as his official legislature portrait was unveiled.

The former premier of Alberta said sorry to 150 friends, family and colleagues after a delayed flight from Calgary made him late for the event.

"I do apologize for being late to my own hanging," the 12th premier quipped as a green covering was pulled off the artwork.

The painting, by Edmonton artist Xin Yu Xheng, doesn't follow the format of traditional legislature portraits, the former premier pointed out.

Rather than sitting behind his desk, Klein, 64, is shown leaning against it with a dream catcher in the background and a view of the mountains out the window of the premier's office.

As Edmontonians would be sure to realize, some artistic liberties were taken. The majestic view of the Rocky Mountains depicted in the background does not exist — the mountains are not visible from the Alberta capital.

But Klein said the painting didn't need to be a strict representation of reality, and he feels the artistic license was appropriate.

'Get out from under the dome'

"You've got to get out from under the dome," he said. "I hope the portrait is reflective of what this province is about. The mountains and the First Nations people, and you know … sometimes we become consumed with the happenings of the legislature."

Klein's portrait will hang just outside the premier's office in the legislature.

"The prospect of seeing myself in living colour and larger than life up on a wall that hundreds, if not thousands, of school kids pass each day, that's when the scary thought occurred," he said.

Klein stepped down in January after serving 14 years as premier.During his time in office,a $23-billion debt was erased and the province enjoyed the greatest oil-powered economic boom in its 100-year history.

Current Premier Ed Stelmach paid tribute to his predecessor, saying that if it weren't for Klein, he would not have entered politics himself.

With files from the Canadian Press