Nude painting of PM raises eyebrows

A painting of a naked Prime Minister Stephen Harper by artist Maggie Sutherland entitled Emperor...

A painting of a naked Prime Minister Stephen Harper by artist Maggie Sutherland entitled Emperor Haute Couture hangs in the Wilson Room of the Kingston Public Library on Thursday as part of the Kingston Arts Council art show. (Ian MacAlpine/QMI Agency)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:49 PM ET

KINGSTON, Ont. -- He's relaxed on a chaise lounge chair, leaning back but staring out at the viewer with a slight smirk as people surround him, a woman offers him a Tim Hortons coffee and a dog rests comfortably beside his leg.

In contrast to the suits that surround him though, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is completely naked.

The oil on canvas painting, entitled Emperor Haute Couture by artist Margaret Sutherland, is raising eyebrows at the Kingston, Ont., library where it is currently on display in a room.

"It's a political satire of a contemporary political figure," Sutherland told QMI Agency. "A classic pose using a contemporary figure."

Sutherland added it's a modern take on Edouard Manet's 1863 painting, Olympia.

The five-foot-long painting was unveiled earlier this month during the Kingston Arts Council annual juried art show. The piece is selling for $5,000.

Not knowing what was headed their way before the painting arrived, the library had a difficult decision on what to do with the Emperor, chief librarian Patricia Enright said.

Not because it was Harper, but the fact that it was a nude.

Enright explained the room is used for meetings and other events including children's recitals.

"When the Emperor Haute Couture went up, we also had quite a few bookings with children's recitals during the same month," she said. "And so the library, in terms of looking at the policy, had also said that the library retains the right to determine the suitability of any proposed exhibit, and they must be reviewed within a context of the public space and its users."

The library then contacted the arts council and explained their conundrum.

Enright said the programmer spoke with Sutherland to explain they would take down the painting when programs with children were being held in the room.

Sutherland was unable to be reached late Thursday.

But in a comment on the website Kingstonist, Sutherland said she is "ticked off" at the library because it keeps covering or removing the piece, particularly if children are in the room where it's being shown.

"I've now provided them with a cloth to cover the painting to lessen the chances they will damage it taking it down and putting it who knows where to sit who knows how long. However, with this kind of behaviour I have little confidence they will actually use it," Sutherland said in her comment under a story about the opening of the art show.

Sutherland is no stranger to painting nudes. Her website shows a number of works of naked men and women.

Sutherland, who lives in Kingston and is originally from New Brunswick, attended Queen's University, where she obtained her bachelor of arts and bachelor of education. She then went on to study at the New York Academy of Art and graduated in 2001. She has taken part in a number of shows and her works have been shown throughout Ontario and New York.


Videos

Photos