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Tim Pawlenty's fascinating official portrait unveiled [IMAGES]

Tim Pawlenty's portrait will not hang in the White House unless he staples it to the wall during a civilian tour.

But now the beloved former governor will forever haunt the hallway of the state Capitol, thanks to the unveiling of Pawlenty's official portrait this morning.

Pawlenty's visage, as rendered by Rossin, the de rigeur portraitist among conservative politicians, is an interesting departure from previous official portraits.

Unlike the preposterously cheesy official image of Jesse Ventura, or the charming if sophomoric depiction of Arne Carlson, Pawlenty's portrait is stark and arresting. Seen at the foot of the state Capitol, Pawlenty stands and looks right back at the viewer with an interesting expression on his face.

He looks like a man who is smiling through pain.

Before taking a closer look at Pawlenty's portrait, let's review his predecessors'. First comes Arne Carlson, who chose to pose himself as if he were running for University of Minnesota student body president, circa 1959.

Carlson looks youthful and likable, but, honestly, seems more likely to grab beers and brats at a Gophers tailgate party then leave a lasting impact on the state of Minnesota.

From the not-serious-enough, we go to the way-too-serious, with the ridiculous portrait of Jesse Ventura.

Rather than be your college buddy, like Governor Carlson, Ventura chose to look like your drunk uncle on the 4th of July.

Jesse, wearing a super-duper American patriot tie, looms over the Twin Cities like he's 500 feet tall. With his eyes cast into the distance -- scanning the horizon for the enemy planes he will personally catch and eat? -- Ventura leans on... well, just take a look for yourself.

Tim Pawlenty's fascinating official portrait unveiled [IMAGES]
MNHS

"The Thinker"? Really?

There are only 20 or 30 problems with this, so let's just list a couple. First, Rodin's iconic statue, first exhibited in Paris, has been replicated in dozens of cities. None of those cities are in Minnesota. Perhaps Ventura had always wished he was governor of Pennsylvania?

And, second, it seems quite doubtful that Minnesotans will forever remember Ventura and say, "Oh yes, he was the governor who thought." Ventura's always been more of a "feeler," and a "doer" -- and, as he's recently embraced various conspiracy theories, a "guesser."

Still, major badass points for anyone who has a commissioned oil painting on the public dime and says, "How's about we get my cigar in there?"

Okay, now the moment of truth. Compared with the competition, Pawlenty's portrait is an abrupt turn for the serious and real. (Click to enlarge.)

Tim Pawlenty's fascinating official portrait unveiled [IMAGES]
MNHS
Everything from the neck down is as ho-hum as an executive portrait could possibly be.

But just take a look at the tightened expression in his mouth, and those soulful eyes. Pawlenty gets plenty of guff around these parts for taking the easy route politically. But as official portraits go, the man in this painting is uniquely vulnerable. So vulnerable, it seems, that he can't even make eye contact with you: Pawlenty is glancing just past your left eye.

It looks like an honest portrait of a guy who went to dozens of military funerals, watched his state plunge into catastrophic deficit -- not without his own fingerprints -- and then saw  Minnesota's and America's economy and future implode, perhaps irreparably.

In his official portrait, which will hang permanently at the state Capitol, Pawlenty looks like a flawed man in flawed times.


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