Doris Lessing

1 portrait

Doris Lessing, by Leonard William McComb, 1999 - NPG 6516 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Doris Lessing

by Leonard William McComb
oil on canvas, 1999
71 3/4 in. x 50 in. (1822 mm x 1270 mm)
Commissioned with help from the Dame Helen Gardner Bequest, 1999
Primary Collection
NPG 6516


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The artist had ten sittings at the novelist's house in London. He provided the chair, she the carpet in the background and together they agreed on the inclusion of the sculpture of an anteater. Doris Lessing wrote of the experience: 'I became very familiar with the patch of brick and a pattern of drainpipes on the wall across the street, where my eyes found a focus. This made me think of the old story of the sage who told a pupil to look at a fish and then return to describe what he had seen. Five minutes later he came back to say, 'It's just a fish.' 'Look again.' He did. This time, it was half an hour. Finally, invited to say what he had seen, he said it would take the rest of his life to see everything there was to be seen in that fish. And that is what I came to feel about that bit of wall'.

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Current affairs

Following referendums in 1997, The Scottish Parliament is opened and Welsh Assembly established in 1999. The new Scottish Parliament has the powers to pass legislation and alter tax. The Welsh Assembly currently has less legislative authority but controls a budget for Wales and can amend legislation passed by Westminster. The House of Lords Act removes all but 92 Hereditary Lords from the second chamber.

Art and science

Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman's film, Shakespeare in Love wins the Oscar for Best Picture. The film, starring Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judi Dench, Geoffrey Rush, and Colin Firth, among other British screen stars, provides a fictitious account of the events that inspired William Shakespeare to write Romeo and Juliet.

International

NATO begins a bombing campaign against the government of Yugoslavia following the breakdown of the Rambouillet Accords that attempted to grant Kosovo autonomy within Serbia under NATO administration. After nearly three months of bombing, Slobodan Milosevic agreed to allow a peacekeeping force to enter Kosovo and the province was placed under a United Nations Interim Administration.

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