The Artist's Process

Past display archive
4 December 2007 - 1 June 2008

Room 37 and 37a


This display tells the stories behind the production of some of the National Portrait Gallery's recent portraits. With the aid of sketchbooks and photographs, it provides an insight into the different working practices of the artists who created them, from Andrew Tift's meticulous scale drawings for his portrait of Neil and Glenys Kinnock, to Tom Phillips's large-scale and semi-abstract sketches of the writer Dame Iris Murdoch.

As part of their commissions to make portraits for the National Portrait Gallery, the artists Stuart Pearson Wright, Andrew Tift and Tomas Watson kept diaries recording their process. These detail the progression of the works and reveal common dilemmas and anxieties. Every portrait in this display involved sittings from life. Some were painted in their subjects' homes, where the surroundings proved inspiring. A crucial element in the making of these portraits was the relationship that developed between the artist and sitter, which Stuart Pearson Wright describes as the 'very particular intimacy of a set of portrait sittings.'

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Neil Kinnock; Glenys Kinnock, by Andrew Tift, 2001 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Neil Kinnock; Glenys Kinnock
by Andrew Tift
NPG 6583

John Robert Fowles, by Tomas Watson, 2001 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

John Robert Fowles
by Tomas Watson
NPG 6584