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Hugh Scott

by Chestine (Chris) L. Owen (1920 - 2011) 
Oil on canvas, 1981
Overall measurement
      Height: 49 inches  (124.46 cm)
      Width:  36 inches  (91.44 cm)
Signature (recto, bottom right): Chris Owen '81
Cat. no. 32.00065.000

During his lengthy Congressional career in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, Hugh Scott served as Senate Republican leader and exhibited skills as a legislative tactician, often rising above partisan concerns for the national interest.

In 1981, four years after Scott’s retirement from the Senate, artist Chestine "Chris" Owen was commissioned to execute an oil on canvas likeness of the senator for a room in the U.S. Capitol that had been named in his honor. The painting was completed and installed shortly before Room S-120 was dedicated on September 15, 1981 as the "Hugh Scott Room." The portrait depicts Senator Scott comfortably seated and surrounded by objects that represent his varied interests and achievements. An ardent pipe smoker, Scott holds one of the 500 pipes he collected. The book resting on the senator's knee likely alludes to his 1967 publication, The Golden Age of Chinese Art: The Lively T’ang Dynasty. A sculpture of a Chinese T’ang dynasty horse in the portrait's background refers to Scott's lifelong interests in Chinese art and culture, which proved useful when the U.S. reestablished relations with China in 1972. Scott was part of the first official Senate delegation to the People’s Republic of China in 1972.

The arist, Chris Owen, earned a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the University of Kansas in the early 1940s and taught painting in Florida. She accepted commissions for portraits of university trustees and presidents, as well as figures in business and government. Owen also executed the official portrait of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White, now in the collection of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., and a second portrait of Hugh Scott, which resides at the senator’s alma mater, Randolph-Macon College in Virginia.

On September 24, 1969, in a closed-door caucus, Senate Republicans narrowly elected Senator Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania over Senator Howard Baker, Jr., of Tennessee to be the new Republican minority leader. Scott had served as the Republican whip for less than a year when the death of Illinois senator Everett Dirksen left the party’s leadership position vacant. Elected to the Senate in 1958, Scott served three terms before retiring in 1977, and was leader for eight years. According to William F. Hildenbrand, Scott’s long-time assistant in the Senate and later secretary of the Senate, the senator “was a consummate politician.” In 1981, a room in the Capitol was designated as the “Hugh Scott Room,” and in 1989, when Senate leaders were establishing a special 15-member Study Group on the Commemoration of the Senate Bicentenary, Scott was selected to chair this panel.