Paul McCartney ('Mike's Brother')

Courtesy of Luke Walsh

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Paul McCartney ('Mike's Brother')

by Sam Walsh
oil on masonite, 1964
64 in. x 61 in. (1625 mm x 1550 mm)
Purchased, 1992
Primary Collection
NPG 6172

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

  • Sam Walsh (1934-1989), Artist. Artist or producer of 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

Song-writer and singer; member of the Beatles and subsequently leader of his own group, Wings; among his many well-known songs are She Loves You, I Want to Hold Your Hand and Mull of Kintyre. The portrait is ironically entitled 'Mike's Brother' as the artist was a friend of Mike McCartney, Paul's brother.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Portraits, p. 5
  • Edited by Rab MacGibbon and Tanya Bentley, Icons and Identities, 2021, p. 14
  • Gibson, Robin; Clerk, Honor, 20th Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1993, p. 33 Read entry

    The portrait is ironically entitled Mike's Brother since it was Mike McCartney, a photographer, who was a friend of the artist Sam Walsh and not his world-famous brother, the Beatle. In 1964 when the portrait was painted, Beatlemania was at its height: it was the year of the album and film A Hard Day's Night, the album Beatles for Sale, the MBEs, the coast-to-coast USA tour and three UK number one hits including Can't Buy Me Love, the first record to top the UK and USA charts simultaneously. The phenomenon had another six years to run before the Beatles disbanded in 1970.

    Sam Walsh was born in Ireland and went to Liverpool 'for the weekend' in 1960, but stayed for the rest of his life. He became a member of the Liverpool Academy in 1966 and taught at Liverpool College of Art from 1968. A contemporary of the pioneers of British Pop, Walsh retained closer stylistic links throughout his career with his American contemporaries. According to his friend, the poet Adrian Henri, 'the liberating influence came from ... Johns, Rauschenberg, Dine and Rivers', and his series of large heads and interest in photo-realism and spray-paintings link him with a later generation of American and European painters, including Chuck Close, Gerhard Richter and Franz Gertsch.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 398
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 226 Read entry

    As a member of The Beatles, Paul McCartney was an international star by 1964 and one of the most recognisable faces in popular culture. Following the group’s formation in Liverpool in 1960, the success of their debut single ‘Love Me Do’ attracted a mass following in Britain. Spurred on by the media fascination that ensued, ‘Beatlemania’ spread to the United States, where the phenomenon secured further adulation. With his song-writing partner John Lennon, bass guitarist McCartney was a major contributor to the group’s success and, collectively, the musical style evolved by The Beatles transformed popular music, supplanting earlier trends such as jazz.

    The Liverpool-based painter Sam Walsh (1934–89) made this portrait of McCartney at the height of the group’s fame. The title refers ironically to McCartney’s less well-known brother, Mike McGear, who also achieved success in the 1960s as part of the satirical trio The Scaffold and was a friend of the artist. Based on photographs, the portrait demonstrates Walsh’s distinctive painterly brushwork, deriving from American Abstract Expressionism combined with imagery based on published photographs, a figurative approach associated with pop art, which was then also at its height.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1964back to top

Current affairs

Harold Wilson narrowly wins the general election for the Labour Party, the first of his four election victories.
Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans become the last people to be executed in the United Kingdom before capital punishment was abolished in 1965.
The Sun newspaper replaces the Daily Herald.

Art and science

Top of the Pops begins its reign as the longest running television music show. The first broadcast was presented by Jimmy Savile and included the Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, The Hollies and The Beatles, who were the show's first number 1 with I Want to Hold Your Hand.


The Civil Rights Act is passed in the USA, outlawing discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex or national origin. The Act abolished the 'Jim Crow Laws' in the Southern States, making forced segregation illegal.
After spending two years in prison Nelson Mandela is sentenced to Life in Prison for the crimes of sabotage and crimes equivalent to treason against the Republic of South Africa.

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