A Gubernatorial Hanging

It took him a lifetime to get it, but artist Paul Jennis finally landed his dream job.

“It’s like making the all-star team of the art world,” Jennis says of his recent commission to paint former governor Richard Codey’s official portrait. The painting, to be formally unveiled next month, will hang in the Statehouse alongside other portraits of past governors.

Codey, who still serves as Senate President, insisted on choosing a New Jersey artist to render his likeness for posterity. Jennis got the nod, Codey says, because of the artist’s “interesting idea” for the portrait. The painting shows Codey standing beside a stained-glass window, a beam of light illuminating the former governor’s face. “It was completely different from all the other portraits of governors hung in the Statehouse and different from the ideas of the other artists,” Codey says.

“The concept is to have the light of New Jersey shining upon him,” says Jennis, who painted the portrait from digital photos he took. “It is more than just a representation. I wanted to capture his openness.”

Jennis, 46, who lives in Raritan Township, has created both high- and low-brow art, painting landscapes and religious murals as well as Gone with the Wind–themed images that were embossed on collectible dishware and sold on TV. He attributes his success as much to his marketing skills as to his artistic interests. “To be successful in this business,” he says, “you really need both.”

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