Thursday 14 July 2016

The National Portrait Gallery, London, has unveiled its most recent commissioned portrait, a painting of Baroness Gail Rebuck by the artist Jennifer McRae, it was announced today, Thursday 14 July 2016. It was commissioned by the Gallery with the support of J. P. Morgan through the Fund for New Commissions. 

The 54 3/8 in. x 43 1/4 in. (1380 mm x 1100 mm) oil on canvas shows Baroness Rebuck sitting centrally in the composition, with a display of books forming the backdrop. The section to the left of the portrait depicts the sitter’s late husband, Lord Gould’s, favourite view of their home. To the right of the portrait, the scene is an impression of the cityscape from Rebuck’s rooftop office at Random House. The books, kindle and notebook on the desk reference her publishing career and the various covers reflect the publisher’s personal engagement with book design. Discreetly placed imprint logos on some of the book binders behind Rebuck highlight her journey in the publishing world.

Painted from life in the artist’s studio and the sitter’s home, the portrait shows Rebuck in a setting that reflects both her public and her home life. McRae has intentionally treated the foreground and left-hand side of the painting in a more sketched way in order to reinforce the presence and centrality of the sitter.

Rebuck was instrumental in selecting McRae to paint her portrait. In the initial meeting to discuss the commission, Rebuck stated that she wanted the painting to ‘tell a story’ and for her ‘endless curiosity and pursuit of intellectual stimulation’ to be reflected in the portrait.

Baroness Gail Rebuck, DBE (b. 1952) is Chair of Penguin Random House UK.  She was a co-founder of a publishing company in 1982 which was acquired by Random House where she became CEO from 1991-2013.  Gail is now a director of several international companies but her passion for books and the creative industries is expressed in her chairmanship of the Council of the Royal College of Art, the Cheltenham Literature Festival and the Quick Reads adult literacy charity which she founded alongside World Book Day, on behalf of the publishing industry. Gail was voted Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year in 2009; was awarded a CBE in 2000; a DBE in 2009 and appointed a Labour Peer to the House of Lords in 2014.

Artist Jennifer McRae (b. 1959), studied painting at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen (1987-92) before becoming a professional portrait painter. McRae works from life and creates portraits combining reality with her own interpretational background drawn from her research. Working in thin layers, her focused and in-depth portraits attempt to reflect their sitters’ inner world.  

McRae is a Royal Scottish Academician and has received many awards including the Hunting Art Prize and the Singer Friedlander Prize. She has been a regular exhibitor in the BP Portrait Award and the Travel Award in 1999. McRae has also painted portraits of Michael Frayn and Dame Thelma Holt for the National Portrait Gallery Collection. Other sitters include Sir Tim Berners Lee for the Royal Society and Sir Michael Howard for the Royal Collection.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says, “This informal portrait of Baroness Gail Rebuck is a thoughtful portrayal of one of Britain’s most influential publishers. I am hugely grateful to J.P. Morgan for their generous support over the past twelve years towards such an important programme of commissions.”

Jennifer McRae says, “I wanted to portray Gail as a handsome and strong woman with self deprecating charm and intelligence, who also happens to be at the centre of the publishing world and rather brilliant at her job”.

Baroness Gail Rebuck says, “When the National Portrait Gallery asked me if I would sit for a portrait, I was both amazed and humbled by the honour. It was the beginning of a fascinating journey, including the first question they put to me: ‘how do you see yourself?’ which left me unusually speechless. But when I met Jennifer McRae (in the Gallery reception area), I knew immediately that here was a woman of dedicated vision and ability and I trusted her immediately. Her imposing and colourful portrait of Michael Frayn is also one of my Gallery favourites.

Jennifer’s portrait is full of detail and our ‘in jokes’ as we got to know each-other over a year of sittings. I came to appreciate the skill of portraiture – the blank canvas so similar to the blank page as a writer begins their work. I am full of admiration.”  

Jennifer McRae’s portrait of Baroness Rebuck was supported by J.P. Morgan through the Fund for New

Commissions, part of the J.P. Morgan Signature Series.  Recent works commissioned by the National Portrait

Gallery, London, with support from J.P. Morgan include Dame Maggie Smith by James Lloyd, Shami Chakrabarti by Gillian Wearing, 2011; Sir James Dyson by Julian Opie, 2011; Dame Anne Owers by Diarmuid Kelley, 2010; Sir Willard W White by Ishbel Myserscough, 2009; Dame Zaha Hadid by Michael Craig-Martin, 2008; Sir Paul Nurse by Jason Brooks, 2008; Sustained Endeavour (Sir Steve Redgrave) by Dryden Goodwin, 2006; Sir David Hare by Dame Paula Rego, 2005; Dame Judi Dench by Alessandro Raho, 2004 and David Beckham by Sam Taylor-Wood, 2004.

Baroness Rebuck by Jennifer McRae is in Room 36 in the Ground floor Lerner Contemporary Galleries at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from Thursday 14 July 2016, Admission free.


by Jennifer McRae © National Portrait Gallery, London; commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery with the support of

J.P. Morgan through the Fund for New Commissions, 2012

Oil on canvas, 2015, 1320 x 1100mm


GAIL REBUCK, (BARONESS REBUCK, DBE) by Jennifer McRae, 2016© National Portrait Gallery, London; commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery with the support of J.P. Morgan through the Fund for New Commissions, 2016

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