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Portrait of archbishop unveiled at cathedral

Blair painting from anonymous donor

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    THE BLADE
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    Leslie Adams and Bishop Daniel Thomas unveil Ms. Adams’ portrait of Archbishop of Hartford Leonard Blair at Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral, in Toledo. Archbishop Blair was the seventh bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo. Ms. Adams also painted Bishop James Hoffman.

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The Bishop’s Chapel at Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral soon will have a new permanent occupant — in two dimensions.

The portrait of Archbishop Leonard Blair, who was the seventh bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo and now leads the Archdiocese of Hartford in Connecticut, was unveiled by artist Leslie Adams and Bishop Daniel Thomas at the chapel Monday.

It is the second portrait that Ms. Adams will have hanging there. She also painted the portrait of Bishop James Hoffman, Archbishop Blair’s predecessor, and considers the cathedral a “sacred museum.”

“I am so honored and privileged that my work will be here for years to come,” she said.

“Hopefully, for centuries,” Bishop Thomas added.

Archbishop Blair saw the completed painting (except for “a little touching up to do,” Ms. Adams said) for the first time Friday.

“I think his reaction was, we would say, wonder and awe,” Bishop Thomas said. “He was just elated.”

IN PICTURES: Unveiling of Archbishop Blair portrait

“I think he was a bit overwhelmed on Friday,” said Ms. Adams.

Ms. Adams is a Toledoan who has become a sought-after portraitist for Ohio leaders. She has done the official portraits of office holders, including Gov. Bob Taft and members of Ohio’s supreme court.

She is also Catholic, a graduate of St. Patrick of Heatherdowns School and McAuley High School. Her art degrees are from the University of Toledo and New York Academy of Art.

Archbishop Blair’s portrait — depicting him in a bishop’s vestments, holding the Book of the Hours, and sitting in the cathedra, or bishop’s chair — was painted over the past year.

“He came here three or four times, posed in place,” Ms. Adams said.

She also worked from photographs.

Ms. Adams had a set of the bishop’s vestments on a mannequin in her downtown studio and was able to paint other details without Archbishop Blair being present, so that when he was posing she could concentrate on details such as his face and posture, she said.

Bishop Hoffman’s portrait was based entirely on photos, as it was painted posthumously.

The recent project, which was painted on commission and paid for by an anonymous donor, took more than 500 hours, she said. No diocesan funds were spent for the portrait.

The donation “really is an extraordinary generosity and a tremendous gift to us,” Bishop Thomas said, “because otherwise I don’t believe I could have done it.”

Ms. Adams included some special touches in the painting. The frame, which was made by Craig Hackman of Worthington, Ohio, has 23-karat gold in it, and Ms. Adams used gold powder with letters in the picture and on the cross around the neck. She also added diamond dust to the jewels on the cross.

Ms. Adams’ portraits will hang across from each other. The Blair portrait will be the first one on the northern wall of the chapel.

Bishop Thomas’ portrait will follow, “in 20 or 25 years,” he said. He said he has already asked Ms. Adams to paint him then.

“I told him my vision will be blurry, and my hands will be shaky; maybe we should start sooner,” Ms. Adams said. “He’d make a good subject.”

Msgr. William Kubacki, the rector of the cathedral who was a house mate when Archbishop Blair was in Toledo, was also at the unveiling.

He said he was “utterly amazed” at Ms. Adams’ depiction — “how she captured his hands and his face, and his eyes, his nose, his mouth. He even has that kind of grin on his face that he always had. …

“It looked like he was right there; it’s great.”

Ms. Adams is now preparing for an upcoming solo show at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown.

Contact TK Barger at tkbarger@theblade.com, 419-724-6278 or on Twitter @TK_Barger.

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