By Jessica Bakeman, Gannett Albany Bureau
ALBANY - A portrait of former Gov. Mario Cuomo was unveiled at the state Capitol Saturday, on his 81st birthday and the day before Father's Day.
His son, current Gov. Andrew Cuomo, pulled the cord revealing the painting, which was modeled after an 1989 photograph because the elder Cuomo refused to sit for an artist.
The younger Cuomo addressed a crowd of hundreds gathered on the second floor Saturday, explaining a recent restoration of the Capitol and a reorganization of the governor's portraits to be in chronological order. The portraits are accompanied by a timeline exhibit with information about each governor's tenure.
"We had all of the portraits in place. All of the portraits were restored. We were missing just one portrait, by a famously shy governor, who was still unwilling to sit for a portrait -- considering it an act of indulgence, God forbid," the current governor said, referring to his father. "So, never to be stymied by an obstacle, the Cuomo administration found a way to get the portrait even without the person knowing. Who said the portrait artist ever really needed to see the person he was painting? That's why God made photographs."
The younger Cuomo said his father's portrait was "the cherry on the cake" to the restoration.
The elder Cuomo, who was the 52nd governor of New York from 1983 to 1994, did not speak at the gathering, but a formal program was planned for the private reception that followed at the Executive Mansion.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo joked about his father's silence: "What I liked about this today is there is only one microphone, and I have it," he said. "It's nice to be governor."
The portrait is the work of Simmie Knox, who is the first black artist to paint a New York governor. Knox was also the first black artist to paint a president; he did former President Bill Clinton's portrait.
It is an oil painting on oil-primed linen, and it is hung between the portraits of former Govs. Hugh Carey and George Pataki. Pataki's portrait is the one of the most recent governor; there are not yet portraits of former Govs. Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson.
Members of both Cuomo administrations were present for the unveiling. Chris Cuomo, a broadcast journalist with CNN who is son to Mario and brother to Andrew, attended, joining other family members.