Monday 27 June 2016

A newly commissioned portrait of Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, by artist Daphne Todd has been unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery, London, it was announced today, Monday 27 June 2016. The commission is supported by BP.

The painting, which is in oil and on raised wooden panels, shows Dame Sally in her office with a view of her team in the background. Multiple sets of spectacles represent Dame Sally’s different expressions throughout the sittings. The box that carries Dame Sally’s official papers is placed next to her on the chair. To the right of the portrait is a pair of Dame Sally’s trainers and to the left is her lunch, a bag of vegetables (raw peppers and tomatoes).

In making the portrait, Todd reacted to the experience of painting in Dame Sally’s office in Whitehall, surrounded by the incidental objects of her working day. The painting is made up of four panels, characteristic of Todd’s approach, which is to allow the composition to evolve as she works.

Dame Sally was the first woman to be appointed as Chief Medical Officer in 2011. Before that she was the Chief Scientific Adviser and Director-General for Research and Development at the Department of Health.

Dame Sally has been instrumental in strengthening the links between clinical medicine and research, notably creating the National Institute for Health Research in 2006. Dame Sally is a member of the World Health Organisation Executive Board. She was appointed a Dame in 2009 for services to medicine and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2014 and the American National Academy of Medicine in 2015. As a clinician, Dame Sally specialised in the treatment of diseases of the blood and bone marrow, particularly sickle cell disease.

Portrait painter Daphne Todd trained at the Slade School of Fine Art (1964-71) and was the first woman to be appointed President of the Royal Society of Painters (1994-2000). In 2010, Todd won First Prize in the BP Portrait Award for Last Portrait of Mother, a devotional study of Todd’s mother on her death bed. Todd has four further portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, of Sir Christopher Ondaatje, Spike Milligan, Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover and Dame Janet Baker. In addition to portraits, Todd paints landscapes, still life and figure studies. She has exhibited at Messums Gallery, London, since 2002.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says, “Daphne Todd’s painting of Professor Dame Sally Davies offers a remarkable portrait of a highly influential and respected figure in the field of health and medicine. We are very grateful to BP for making this possible.”

Ms Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP says, “Professor Dame Sally Davies is an inspiration, particularly to young people considering a career in Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM).  Advocating on behalf of STEM education and careers is an important part of what we do at BP, and as such we are delighted to support this portrait of a remarkable woman, and we hope it will be enjoyed by many visitors to the Gallery”.

Daphne Todd, says, “I was struck by Dame Sally’s tremendous energy as I trotted behind her to catch the bus to her office, after we had initially considered her home as a setting for the painting. She practices what she preaches, so the kicked-off trainers and the healthy mid-day snack found their way into my consciousness and then into the painting. It takes two to make a portrait so I was grateful for Dame Sally’s generosity of spirit in finding the time I needed in her busy schedule and the freedom to follow wherever the painting led. There was no worrying me to produce a flattering image: she understood the process as a quasi-scientific collecting of facts. Neither of us knew what would come out but it takes a brave and confident woman to risk it!”

Professor Dame Sally Davies says, “I never expected such an honour. I have always loved visiting the National Portrait Gallery so the thought of a painting of me there was very special. I knew from Daphne’s previous work that her portraits are beautiful, but do not glamorise their subjects.  Daphne is the first woman president of the Royal Portrait Society and I am the first female Chief Medical Officer so it seemed like the perfect match. I am delighted and truly humbled by her portrait of me.”

Daphne Todd’s portrait of Dame Sally Davies was commissioned by the Gallery’s Trustees. Gallery commissions supported by BP include Julia Donaldson by Peter Monkman, Dame Kelly Holmes by Craig Wylie, Sir Paul Smith by James Lloyd, Sir Mike Jackson by Brendan Kelly, JK Rowling by Stuart Pearson Wright, Dame Cicely Saunders by Catherine Goodman and Sir V S Naipaul by Paul Emsley.

Dame Sally Davies by Daphne Todd is in Room 36 on the Ground Floor, at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from Monday 27 June 2016. Admission Free

By Daphne Todd (b.1947) 2016
Oil on raised wooden panels, 1500 x 800 (59 x 31.5 in)
© National Portrait Gallery, London


Dame Sally Davies by Daphne Todd, 2016 ©National Portrait Gallery, London

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