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Stephen Fry

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Stephen Fry

by Maggi Hambling
charcoal, 1993
60 1/4 in. x 40 in. (1530 mm x 1016 mm)
Purchased, 1995
Primary Collection
NPG 6323

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Maggi Hambling (1945-), Painter. Artist of 8 portraits, Sitter in 15 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Maggi Hambling met Stephen Fry in 1993 and asked him to sit for her. In all she made three oil paintings from life, a number of oil sketches and about two dozen drawings. During breaks they often discussed Oscar Wilde, though it was some years later that Hambling made a bronze memorial sculpture of Wilde, on Adelaide Street near Trafalgar Square, and that Fry played him in the film Wilde (1997). This portrait of his face half-crumpled by neurotic anxiety was preferred to her finished painting of him. It was acquired by the Trustees on the day that Fry disappeared from public view, halfway through the run of an unsuccessful production of Simon Gray's play Cell Mates.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 234
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 234 Read entry

    Tall, gangling and mildly effete, Stephen Fry has been the subject of innumerable portrait drawings by Maggi Hambling, many of which concentrate not on his face but on his gait. This portrait of his face half-crumpled by neurotic anxiety was preferred to her finished painting of him. It was acquired by the Trustees on the afternoon of the day that Fry disappeared from public view, halfway through the run of an exceptionally unsuccessful production of Simon Gray's play Cell Mates.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 233
  • Tinker, Christopher, Speak its Name! - Quotations by and about Gay Men and Women, 2016, p. 303

Subject/Themeback to top

Events of 1993back to top

Current affairs

The Conservative Party is attacked in the media for 'sleaze'. Two MP's resign over sex scandals, two over the 'cash-for-questions affair', and one dies in bizarre and embarrassing circumstances. Journalist Max Clifford was responsible for exposing many of the scandals.
Black teenager Stephen Lawrence is murdered in a racist attack by a gang of white youths.

Art and science

Rachel Whiteread wins the Turner Prize for her sculpture House; a concrete cast of the inside of a Victorian terraced house in East London. Controversy was caused by the work itself, by it winning the Turner Prize, and by the decision of Tower Hamlets council to demolish the sculpture.
British inventor James Dyson revolutionises the vacuum cleaner with his eponymous design.

International

Czechoslovakia is divided into two countries: the Slovak Republic (Slovakia) and the Czech Republic. The division was peaceful and democratic and so became known as the 'Velvet Divorce', recalling the 'Velvet Revolution' of 1989 by which Communism in Czechoslovakia was overthrown through peaceful mass demonstrations.

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Nan

19 November 2015, 01:29

Although not particularly detailed, the sittings and the artist are mentioned many times in Mr Fry's most recent autobiography "More Fool Me: A Memoir".

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