NPG 6400 (1c)

Fax from Ross Wilson to Charles Saumarez Smith, the director of the National Portrait Gallery, dated 17 July 1997, giving an account of his commission to paint Derek Walcott.


He played me a demo tape of songs and music, words and rhythms that he and Paul Simon were working on, a joint project, a musical for Broadway called "The Cape Man" based on an early play from the 1950s. He was proud of this new project, he said. Paul Simon was a folk poet, he respected him they were in it together. The songs lifted above our heads in the cool sea breeze, and vanished into the air, my time there was short there were so many questions I wanted to ask, so many things I wanted to know about the poems, the plays, they all had to wait as I started to make my own lines on paper, to record, to catch.

He sat brilliantly for me he was respectful and full of help. He knew about Art he was wise to it.

After the sitting he took me to the fishing village Gros- Islet, it was night now. The sky was still blue and the stars were big and close. We stepped out of the jeep and the children gathered around him, adults looked on, he gave the children his loose change, he was a hero with words even the dogs knew him. He was one of them he was a local and universal, he was an insider. I was impressed by his closeness, I remembered the line from "midsummer" ... "The hot pitch road, the grass, these shacks that made me." He was thier voice he spoke for them.