Thursday, December 15, 2016

Sandy Nairne by Chuck Close at NPG

It's not uncommon for an art gallery or museum to commission a portrait of its Director as he or she leaves office. That's why you can now see a large portrait of Sandy Nairne by Chuck Close in a new display Depicting the Human Head at the National Portrait Gallery.

Sandy Nairne is the former Director of the National Portrait Gallery and retired in February 2015. He's now Chair of the Clore Leadership Programme.

Sandy Nairne by Chuck Close


Sandy Nairne by Chuck Close, 2016
© Chuck Close/National Portrait Gallery, London

archival pigment print, 2015
74 5/8 in. x 60 in. (1896 mm x 1523 mm) overall
Given by the artist, 2016

What's important about this particular portrait is that it's the first portrait by Close to be acquired by the Gallery and the first major work by the American artist to enter a British public collection.

That's because most of the people that Close paints are American and therefore ineligible to be included in the permanent collection of the Gallery which records the faces of those who have contributed to British history and culture.
‘to promote through the medium of portraits the appreciation and understanding of the men and women who have made and are making British history and culture, and ... to promote the appreciation and understanding of portraiture in all media’.
I'm a HUGE fan of Chuck Close and his large-scale, photo-based portraits and this choice of portrait artist for the commission is a great idea!

Sandy Nairne with Chuck Close
This particular portrait is a six-foot tall watercolour print portrait of Sandy Nairne, based on a unique large format colour Polaroid photograph that was taken in John Reuter's 20x24 Studio in New York.

Close has donated the portrait to the Gallery.

The process of producing the portrait involve Close in the processes he has developed to enable him to continue to create portraits following the event which paralysed him in 1988. This includes
  • using a digital library of more than ten thousand, hand-painted, monochromatic marks created for the process to make the transition from a photograph to a watercolour. 
  • choosing and manipulating the specific size and spacing of the grid and the interaction of the individual marks in order to retain the characteristics and clarity of a special watercolour technique that was developed by Close in his own studio with Donald Farnsworth, the artist's main collaborator.

Depicting the Human Head


indicates the full size of the portrait

Sandy Nairne by Chuck Close is in Depicting the Human Head in Room 33, First Floor Landing, at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from Wednesday 14 December 2016, Admission free.

Depicting the Human Head also includes paintings of:
  • pianist Alfred Brendel by Tony Bevan and scientist Sir Paul Nurse by Jason Brooks, both commissioned during Nairne's term as Director, 
  • John Keane's 2001 painting of politician Mo Mowlam and 
  • a recently acquired self-portrait by British artist Nigel Henderson. 

About Sandy Nairne


Sandy Nairne CBE was Director of the National Portrait Gallery from 2002 to 2015. His achievements included:
  • overseeing a number of important exhibitions
  • expanding the education, digital and national programmes
  • increasing attendance figures to over two million visitors each year
  • leading a £10m campaign to acquire Van Dyck's late self-portrait

Previously he was Director of Programmes at Tate (1994-2002), working alongside Sir Nicholas Serota in the creation of Tate Modern and the Centenary Development at Tate Britain. He has also worked at the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford (now Modern Art Oxford).

He is currently Chair of the Clore Leadership Programme, the Fabric Advisory Committee of St Paul's Cathedral and the Art Group for Maggie's Cancer Care Centres, and a Trustee of the National Trust and the Courtauld Collection.

About Chuck Close


Chuck Close has been a world famous portrait painter and photographer since the late 1960s. In 2000, Close was presented with the prestigious National Medal of Arts by President Clinton.

He now lives and works in New York City and Long Island. In 1988 Close was paralysed following a rare spinal artery collapse but he has continued to work using a brush-holding device strapped to his wrist and forearm.

Close has made portraits of subjects including Philip Glass, Cindy Sherman, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.  His work is represented in many of the great international museums of contemporary art including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, Tate, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and the Centre George Pompidou, Paris.

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