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Kathleen Wynne's portrait unveiled at Queen's Park

The official portrait of Ontario's 25th premier, Kathleen Wynne, was unveiled on Monday night at the provincial legislature.

Wynne will be first woman in long tradition of premiers' and speakers' paintings on the walls of Queen's Park

Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne stands beside her portrait, painted by Linda Dobbs, after its unveiling ceremony at the Ontario Legislature, in Toronto on Monday. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The official portrait of Ontario's 25th premier, Kathleen Wynne, was unveiled on Monday night at the provincial Legislature.

The ceremony is the latest in a tradition — dating back more than a century — to hang life-sized paintings of past premiers and speakers in the halls of Queen's Park.

Wynne's portrait makes Ontario history as the first of a woman. 

"It's really important to me that young girls see themselves reflected," Wynne said in an interview at Queen's Park. "Every time I see a group of school kids coming through I want  to say to them, 'And there's going to be a woman on the walls soon.'" 

Premiers' portraits are only commissioned after they leave office and are always unveiled by the current premier. For Wynne, that means a political rival has presided over the ceremony. 

"Doug Ford and I don't agree on anything, really. But he is the premier, and it's the position that's important," Wynne said. "It doesn't matter the party stripe, we all have a responsibility to the people of Ontario, and that's what the position is about." 

Wynne chose Toronto artist Linda Kooluris Dobbs to paint her portrait. The artist painted David Peterson in the 1990s in a manner that broke the mold for Ontario premiers.

In his official portrait, Peterson isn't wearing a suit jacket, his tie is loosened, his sleeves are rolled up and personal mementos are on display. All previous portraits show premiers looking formal, with nondescript backgrounds.

"I always loved David Peterson's portrait," said Wynne. "I wanted a realistic portrayal. I wanted someone who could capture my expression, and I hope people think she has."

Only a handful of people saw the portrait ahead of its unveiling, including the framer, the curator of the province's art collection, and Wynne herself.

Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne shows her portrait, painted by Linda Dobbs, to children from her constituency after its unveiling ceremony at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Monday. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Wynne says she is happy with the portrait, although she describes the experience of seeing herself in a life-size oil painting as bizarre. 

"It is a strange thing but I'm trying to approach it as the position," Wynne said. "The position is important to our democratic system and a record of that position and who has filled that position is important."  

Dobbs painted Wynne from a selection of photos taken earlier this year and spent from May until September working on it full-time. 

Wynne chose several items of symbolic value for the artist to include in the portrait. Among them are gifts she received from Indigenous people during her time as premier, as well as her running shoes. 

In an interview, Dobbs described the portrait. Wynne is standing, wearing a dress, with a scarf and shoes that Dobbs describes as elegant. She said the artwork is overall very bright, with a lot of light, soft pastel colours contrasting against a wood backdrop, and "very feminine." 

When Wynne first saw the finished portrait, she told Dobbs that it looks just the way she sees herself. 

"Her face lit up with the biggest smile and she said, 'Oh my, the detail. It's all I could have ever hoped for in a portrait,'" Dobbs said. "For me, it's so important that I enter inside of a person's soul and pull them out into the work. To have had her say that meant I did get it." 

Wynne is not wearing the glasses that she wore until a few years ago, but she is holding them, said Dobbs. Included in the background are photos of Wynne's family, including her grandchildren and her wife Jane Rounthwaite.  

The provincial government pays for each premier's portrait and retains ownership through the Archives of Ontario. Wynne's cost $50,000, said an official with for the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. 

Facts about the portraits of recent Ontario premiers

  • Progressive Conservative premiers Bill Davis and Mike Harris as well as Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty all chose the same artist for their portrait: Collingwood-based Istvan Nyikos. 
  • David Peterson's portrait includes a photo of Peterson with his wife Shelley and their children on a fireplace mantle.
  • Bob Rae's portrait shows an early-1990s laptop computer open on his desk. Rae said that it was because his administration launched the computer era at Queen's Park and that he helped draft the Charlottetown constitutional accord on such a laptop. 
  • The foreground of Ernie Eves's portrait shows a pile of bound volumes, including five budgets he delivered as finance minister and his children's university yearbooks. 

About the Author

Mike Crawley

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Mike Crawley is provincial affairs reporter in Ontario for CBC News. He has won awards for his reporting on the eHealth spending scandal and flaws in Ontario's welfare-payment computer system. Before joining the CBC in 2005, Mike filed stories from 19 countries in Africa as a freelance journalist and worked as a newspaper reporter in B.C.

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