Paul Nurse ('Paul')
1 of 3 portraits of Paul Nurse
Paul Nurse ('Paul')
by Jason Brooks
acrylic on linen, 2008
67 3/8 in. x 106 3/4 in. (1710 mm x 2710 mm) overall
Commissioned; made possible by J.P. Morgan through the Fund for New Commissions, 2008
This portraitback to top
From a distance this portrait is sharply defined, but close-up it is made up of abstracted forms; an attempt, in the artist’s words, to 'get lost in somebody’s structure'.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Cooper, John, A Guide to the National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 62 Read entry
Bold in scale and detail, the latest in a line of Nobel Prize-winning scientists to be sought for the Collection since commissioning began in the 1980s.
- Howgate, Sarah; Nairne, Sandy, A Guide to Contemporary Portraits, 2009, p. 45 Read entry
In 2001 Sir Paul Nurse (b. 1949) was awarded the Nobel Prize for unravelling the mechanism of cell division, which illuminated medical research and allowed for more accurate cancer diagnostics. Without overtly referencing Nurse’s role as a microbiologist, artist Jason Brooks explores through his painting process the essential make-up of the human form. The portrait, a large-scale black-and-white image of the scientist’s face, cropped to cinematic effect, shows every pore and follicle. From a distance it appears as a sharply defined photograph, but close-to as abstracted airbrushed forms; an attempt, in the artist’s words, to ‘get lost in somebody’s structure’.
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 273 Read entry
Geneticist and cell biologist Paul Nurse was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with Dr Tim Hunt and Dr Leland Hartwell for his work on the genes that regulate the cell division cycle. His important discoveries have improved our understanding of how cancer cells divide. Nurse was formerly Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, the largest cancer charity in the United Kingdom. He has been President of Rockefeller University in New York since 2003, where he continues his research, and in 2010 became President of the Royal Society. In 2011 he was appointed Director and Chief Executive of The Francis Crick Institute.
Using photographic source material, Jason Brooks (b.1968) uses an airbrush to create his large paintings, which he refines with a scalpel and dentist’s drill, erasing the painterly qualities on the surface. Viewed closeup, as in this monochromatic portrait of Nurse, the large scale of his work emphasises the uniformity of the faces. This painting is an attempt to reveal what he calls his subjects’ ‘essential make up’, which seems a particularly fitting way of depicting this eminent scientist.