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Schafer's portrait to be unveiled

WASHINGTON -- Former North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer, the 29th U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, will be honored at the unveiling of his official portrait on April 27, at an afternoon ceremony and invitation-only reception in the Whitten Building Patio...

Schafer portrait
Former North Dakota governor and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer will be honored April 27 in Washington, D.C., with the unveiling of his official portrait. The portrait was painted by Baton Rouge, La.-based artist Brett James Smith.
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WASHINGTON -- Former North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer, the 29th U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, will be honored at the unveiling of his official portrait on April 27, at an afternoon ceremony and invitation-only reception in the Whitten Building Patio, at the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.

Initially, Schafer talked to a short list of USDA-approved portrait artists, but decided he wanted something different and not quite as photographic, according to an article in the Feb. 27 issue of Agweek.

As governor, Schafer had worked on protecting grasslands in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and grew to love the work of Brett James Smith, 53, who is based in the Baton Rouge, La., area.

Smith had painted "Valley of the Elkhorn," a view of Teddy Roosevelt, standing with a horse, looking over the North Dakota Badlands.

"I really liked the lighting that this painter uses," Schafer told Agweek in February. Schafer owns a print of the painting, but learned that a friend, Lowell Baier, of Bethesda, Md., president emeritus of the Boone and Crockett Club, owned the original. Schafer asked Baier if he could hang the painting in his USDA office during his tenure, and it was done.

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When the portraiture issue came up, Schafer thought of Smith.

Smith, who isn't known for portraits, accepted the commission as an artistic challenge. The two decided the painting would be in context with other secretaries -- usually in a suit, but it would be a "painting instead of a photo."

A committee at USDA approved the artist and the subject matter.

In the painting, Schafer is in a suit, sitting with Smith's "Valley of the Elkhorn" painting in the background.

Agweek acquired a photo of the new portrait, which hangs in the building's central galleries. Here are comments from the artist: "Throughout my career I have few formal portraits to my credit. When Ed asked me to consider creating his portrait for the USDA, I was honored but agreed with only a little trepidation. Taken by my nontraditional portrait of Teddy Roosevelt that had been commissioned by a mutual acquaintance, Ed convinced me to become involved. I envisioned a portrait that conjures up the image of the rustic individualist qualities that both men possess.

"In keeping with these qualities the painting had to have a loose, spontaneous feel that reveal his bold, fun-loving qualities without ignoring his business-like approach to his governmental duties. Hopefully, these attributes will be evident to the viewer and live up to the positive accomplishments of the subject."

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