My Favourite Portrait by Annie Lennox
by Bryan Adams
20 February 2008
Taken from the Gallery Supporters’ Magazine, Face to Face
I love the National Portrait Gallery, and for me, going for a visit there is always something of a treat. I love the building, its proportions and location and each time I go there, it feels like a discovery, almost as if I’ve never been there before. One thing that does remain steadily familiar is that reassuringly solid quality, exemplified by its Victorian architecture. I’m still trying to come to terms with its modern extension, though.
I was given the task of writing about one particular portrait of my choice – anything I felt responsive to. ‘That should be easy,’ I thought . . . but I assure you, it is not.
Walking methodically through each room, I felt confident that I would quickly identify my own personal favourite. I thought it would stand out and proclaim loudly . . . ‘Hello . . . it is me!’.
The problem is that every portrait is unique and special. Each one has a story of its own to tell. I found myself thrown off-track by a plethora of questions:
What essentially is a portrait? And what is a portrait gallery anyway? What have all these people come here looking for? And what do they think they’ll find in all this looking?
Then I got an answer. This is a place to commune with the good, the great and possibly even the notorious.
This is a place where we can take an opportunity to look at them eye to eye. We can get up close. Through the medium of the artist, whether via camera lens and film, or canvas, brush and paint, each portrait reveals something about its subject. Perhaps we can glean a sense of their essence – through a representation of an aspect of their physical form, maybe we can spot their strengths or even their vulnerabilities. We can admire, assess, recall, reminisce and then make abstract contact or connection.
Or, perhaps, they will remain inscrutable, existing imperviously in two-dimensional portrait form, behind the confines of glass. I started to panic. Perhaps I had bitten off more than I could assimilate!
So here I am, writing something slightly different. It is more of an impression, a broad sweep of the place.
This is the space where authors, poets, painters, kings, queens, princesses and princes collide with artists or their muses, models, social icons, politicians and pop stars. You can encounter everyone, from Margaret Thatcher to Mandy Rice-Davies. Everybody’s there, from times past right up to the present day. I could nniespend hours delving into its treasures and reflecting.
So if you want a piece about one particular portrait, just tell me WHICH ONE!?
Singer and songwriter Annie Lennox has received numerous awards throughout her long career, including the Ivor Novello Award, eight Brits including Lifetime Achievement Award, three Grammys, and more recently, an Oscar for her work on Lord Of The Rings.