It was "beautifully painted," you understand, but the long-awaited portrait of Henry Kissinger for the State Department's August seventh-floor chamber has been declined and another artist will try his hand.
Gardner Cox, the celebrated portrait painter of Boston, whose work Kissinger greatly admires, said there were no hard feelings when his painting was sent back by the State Department.
Clement Conger, the leading authority on State Department furnishings and pictures, said yesterday "it was beautifully painted, but did not seem to capture the dynamism of Dr. Kissinger."
Another State Department figure said the portrait, showing the former secretary with his hand outstretched, "made him look somewhat a dwarf," and "looking more like a rogues' gallery thing" since "it didn't capture any of the radiance."
Kissinger himself declined the opportunity to comment on the portrait yesterday.
Cox said he had been invited to spend more time on the picture, but his schedule didn't permit it and of course he liked it the way it was or he wouldn't have painted it that way.
Larry G. Piper, executive director of the executive secretariat of the State Department, said the portrait was to cost $12,000, but that Cox would be paid $700 for expenses in travel and would retain the picture himself. Cox said he had no plans for the portrait, and had not heard about the $700, but said there were no hard feelings at all.
"Indeed, quite the contrary," said Conger. "Oh, Nancy Kissinger was charmed by Gardner Cox. Everybody is extremely happy with everybody else. Dr. Kissinger greatly admired Cox' portrait of Dean Acheson. Of course Acheson and Kissinger are two different kinds of people."
Piper said the portrait was already in the works when he came to the department in August but the painting was delievered to his office in December, Conger was called for a consultation, and it is understood Kissinger was not enchanted with the work. The painting was returned within the last couple of weeks.
"You know how sometimes you do not like a photograph of yourself," Conger said. "Nothing against the photographer. I almost never like any of myself. It's the same way with oil portraits."
Through the years, or aeons, subjects have complained there is something not quite right about the eyes, etc., and artists commonly say they have captured the very soul.
Winston Churchill is said to have burned a portrait somebody painted of him, and Lyndon Johnson once said his official portrait (rejected) was the ugliest thing he ever saw, though others said it looked just like him.
One solution is for the subject to paint his own portrait, as Elliot Richardson recently did for the Commerce Department. Few who paint their own pictures will say they are hideou. Richardson's portrait did not cost a dime. It is said, however, that Kissinger is not gifted along those lines, though many discover hidden talent for art in their later years.
There was another portrait of Kissinger, he said, made by the Franklin Mint, in which the celebrated Greuze portrait of Ben Franklin was more or less copied - "with the wig, or maybe it was just before Franklin got a wig," Conger said - only the face of Kissinger was painted in. "That was the fun portrait," Conger said, and Kissinger liked it.
"No," Conger said, nobody had actually though of getting the fun portrait and hanging it in the State Department, "but it might not be a bad idea at all."
It's got all the radiance a guy could ask for.