Doris Lessing

1 portrait on display in Room 35 at the National Portrait Gallery

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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