Nude painting of PM Harper sold; no word on who bought the Sutherland work

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TORONTO - A Kingston, Ont.-based artist's painting of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the nude has been sold.

Artist Margaret Sutherland posted on her Facebook page that there was a "tsunami of press and offers to buy" the painting during the Victoria Day weekend.

The large oil on canvas, which Stephen Harper did not pose for, shows the prime minister reclining on a chaise lounge wearing nothing but a subtle smile.

A dog rests at his feet as a woman in business attire offers him what looks like a Tim Hortons cup on a silver platter.

The Edward Day Gallery in Toronto isn't saying who purchased the painting for $5,000.

Gallery owner Mary Sue Rankin said amid all the hubub the painting has created, Sutherland's piece ultimately has a serious message about Harper not living up to his promises.

For Sutherland, who completed the painting last year, the point of her piece was a satirical one.

"It was a sort of a culmination of some general frustrations of the federal government's policies and what they were telling us," Sutherland had said, adding that she had been particularly peeved with the government's elimination of the long form census and its closure of certain prison farms.

"The political message is to look for yourself and don't necessarily believe the party line."

The painting's title — Emperor Haute Couture — is also part of the pun as it carries a reference to "The Emperor's New Clothes," a tale by Hans Christian Andersen in which a vain king parades around naked, believing his new suit is so superior that it is invisible to those unfit for their positions in life.

The painting is displayed at the Kingston public library as a finalist in the Juried Art Salon, a competition hosted by the Kingston Arts Council.

The piece ruffled some feathers in the community, largely because of the fact that it is a nude work displayed in a room where children's recitals are held.

The library covers up the piece when a children's program is under way and has it on full display at all other times until the end of the month.

Organizations: Tim Hortons, Kingston Arts Council

Geographic location: TORONTO, Kingston

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