Paul McCartney

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Paul McCartney

by Humphrey Ocean
oil on canvas, 1983
33 5/8 in. x 19 1/2 in. (854 mm x 495 mm)
Commissioned as part of the First Prize, 1982 Imperial Tobacco Portrait Award, 1983
Primary Collection
NPG 5695

Sitterback to top

  • Sir (James) Paul McCartney (1942-), Musician and member of The Beatles and Wings. Sitter in 88 portraits, Artist or producer of 1 portrait.

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

In the 1970s Ocean had been co-opted by his art tutor Ian Dury as a bass player with the band Kilburn and the High Roads. Already in the rock music world, he then travelled as artist in residence on a Wings tour of America in 1976, and so knew his sitter well when he came to paint him for the National Portrait Gallery.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG x19172: Humphrey Ocean; Paul McCartney (includes the portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Gibson, Robin, Treasures from the National Portrait Gallery, 1996, p. 127
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 398
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 188 Read entry

    Steel, mitred and welded, an inverted flat U-shaped main piece contains a hidden ramin under-frame held by the large domed corner bolts, and has a welded dome-shaped steel piece on a flat plate next to the sight edge. 2 7⁄ 8 inches wide.

    This frame of second-hand rusty steel was designed by the artist and made in collaboration with the sculptor, Chris Poulton, at a cost of £51.32 for the various parts.1 The artist's bill, dated 15 November 1983, lists the frame's components of which the most expensive was the 'Roundel Angle' of the main steel framework at £29.38, supplied by Metal Fabrications Ltd. Other costs ranged from £8.65 for wood to £2.80 for bolts and 30p for washers. Humphrey Ocean has always liked to be closely involved in the framing of his pictures. The portrait of Paul McCartney was both his first commission from the National Portrait Gallery, as prize winner of the John Player Portrait Award in 1982, and his first metal frame. Since then the artist has painted various other portraits for the Gallery, including Philip Larkin's in 1984 which has a recycled black Dutch ripple frame designed to reflect the domestic nature of the portrait, and A. J. Ayer's in 1985 in a flat white frame, intended to take up the idea of purity in intellectual thought. More recently Ocean has painted the portraits of Lord Whitelaw, which was given a traditional frame from store, and of Tony Benn, which has been framed in a more modern style.

    1 Some of the information in this entry derives from a telephone conversation with the artist, 26 April 1996.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1983back to top

Current affairs

Margaret Thatcher wins a landslide majority for the Conservative Party at the general election. Although her premiership had previously been unpopular, the British victory in the Falklands coupled with divisions in Michael Foot's Labour opposition, helped her to gain popularity and win the most decisive election victory since 1945.

Art and science

The British sitcom Blackadder is aired for the first time. Each of the four series followed the character of the anti-hero Edmund Blackadder and took place during a different period of British history. The first series, The Black Adder, was a satire of medieval England during the rein of the fictitious Richard IV, and frequently lifted famous lines from Shakespeare.


The armed struggle between Tamil militants and the Sinhalese-dominated government of Sri Lanka begin with the Black July pogrom. Mobs (allegedly supported by the government) started attacking and murdering Tamils following an attack by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on government soldiers. Civil war between the government and Tamil nationalists has continued sporadically ever since.

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