In an effort to help preserve the state’s history and make it accessible to Oregonians, educators, art enthusiasts, history buffs and others, the Oregon State Capitol Foundation is launching the Governors’ Portraits Search to locate and catalog missing portraits of former Oregon governors. When the Capitol burned in 1935, many oil paintings were lost. But there are around 27 portraits that were saved and have gone missing.
Last year the Capitol Foundation learned that the great-great-granddaughter of Gov. James Withycombe, Claire Withycombe, discovered a formal portrait of the former governor hanging in her grandmother’s home. While it is unknown if this portrait, painted while Gov. Withycombe was still in office, ever hung in the Capitol, its discovery has given the Foundation hope that other artwork depicting former Oregon governors may still exist.
The missing formal portraits may be in private homes, schools, universities, museums, businesses, courthouses or public buildings. Capitol Foundation board member Bruce Bishop said,”We want to know about the portraits so we can log their existence.” The nonprofit does not want to reclaim the portraits and will keep the location of artwork located in residences private.
If you have information about the location of any of the missing portraits (a full listing is at oregoncapitolfoundation.org/project/governors-portraits), please contact the Foundation at email@example.com or 503.363.1859.
Kathy Withycombe holds a portrait of Gov. James Withycombe, 15th governor of Oregon. Photo by Claire Withycombe.