Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone, by Andrew Tift, 2014 - NPG 6983 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Ken Livingstone

by Andrew Tift
acrylic on canvas, 2014
44 in. x 42 1/4 in. (1118 mm x 1074 mm)
Commissioned as part of the First Prize, BP Portrait Award, 2006, 2014
Primary Collection
NPG 6983

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This portrait was commissioned as part of the first prize of the Gallery's BP Portrait Award, which Tift won in 2006 for a triptych portrait of Kitty Garman, Lucian Freud's first wife. It shows Ken Livingstone in his garden in Willesdon Green in west London. When Tift first visited his sitter at home, in April 2011, they discussed a number of settings including County Hall and City Hall. However, they were both keen to avoid a symbol-laden approach, and it was decided that the best possible place would be Livingstone’s own back garden. Livingstone is a keen gardener, and Tift identified the garden as his sitter’s ‘retreat’. A sitting took place in August 2011, when the artist took over a thousand photographs of Livingstone and the garden, which was followed up with a further sitting some months later. Tift made a composition by manipulating a number of images using Photoshop. The apparently ordinary setting of a garden of a London terrace, is rendered extraordinary by the artist’s approach and technique. Having never previously painted an exterior scene, he looked to the work of artists including Lucian Freud and the Pre-Raphaelites, whose influence is apparent in the intensity of observation of foliage. The artist has a meticulous approach and the work has taken several years to complete. This commission is a fascinating portrait of a politician, presented as a resident of the city to which his career has been devoted.

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