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Thomas Joseph Edmund Adès

2 of 3 portraits of Thomas Joseph Edmund Adès

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Thomas Joseph Edmund Adès

by Phil Hale
oil on canvas, 2002
84 1/8 in. x 42 1/4 in. (2138 mm x 1073 mm)
Commissioned with help from the Jerwood Charitable Foundation through the Jerwood Portrait Commission, 2002
Primary Collection
NPG 6619

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

The portrait is the result of a close collaboration between artist and sitter over a seven month period. The setting is an anonymous corner of Ades' London home.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG D17001: Thomas Joseph Edmund Adès (finished work)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Portraits, p. 140
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Howgate, Sarah; Nairne, Sandy, A Guide to Contemporary Portraits, 2009, p. 27 Read entry

    Thomas Adès (b. 1971) is recognised as one of today’s foremost classical composers. The portrait by Philip Hale combines a nod to tradition with a contemporary influence: the swagger portraits of Sargent with the soul-searching of Schiele. Over seven months, Hale made numerous photographs, drawings and oil sketches to establish a suitable context and pose. Adès did not want to be portrayed in the predictable setting of a concert hall and favoured a dark, anonymous corner of his London apartment. His twisted pose echoes the shape of a musical note; his right hand is contorted as he exercises his fingers after a fall. Hale’s high viewpoint adds drama to the composition and accentuates a sense of discomfort, softened by the play of textures in the folds of the linen suit and the reflective glass of the table.

  • Nairne, Sandy (introduction), 500 Portraits: BP Portrait Award, 2011, p. 318
  • Nairne, Sandy; Howgate, Sarah, The Portrait Now, 2006, p. 32 Read entry

    The setting and pose for this portrait of the young composer and artistic director of the Aledburgh Festival was born out of an intense photography session. The sitter, certain that he did not wish to be portrayed in the traditional setting of concert hall or rehearsal room, chose a dark and anonymous corner of his London home as a backdrop. In the sweep of the full-length figure, which echoes the shape of a musical note, and the attention to detail, with a play on texture and surfaces, this painting is rooted in the swagger portrait tradition. However, the existentialist angst of this unvonventional pose - with Adés's twisted body and right hand contorted into a figer exercise after an injury - calls to mind the etiolated isolation of Egon Schiele's figures.

  • Tinker, Christopher, Speak its Name! - Quotations by and about Gay Men and Women, 2016, p. 254
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 261 Read entry

    Thomas Adès has achieved acclaim as composer, conductor and pianist. His work with the Hallé Orchestra includes These Premises Are Alarmed, performed for the opening of the Bridgewater Hall (1996). The orchestral piece Asyla (1997) was toured by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle’s direction. Powder Her Face (1995), his first opera, was followed by The Tempest (2004), a commission from the Royal Opera House, London. A collaboration with video artist Tal Rosner resulted in a piano concerto and moving image piece titled In Seven Days, which premiered at the Royal Festival Hall (2008). Artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival (1999– 2008), Adès has recorded works by composers including György Kurtág, Igor Stravinsky and Leoš Janácek.

    Canadian-born artist Phil Hale (b.1963), who had won second prize in the Gallery’s BP Portrait Award in 2001, made numerous photographs, drawings and oil sketches over a seven-month period. Adès was clear that he did not want to be depicted in a concert hall for his portrait. The decision was finally made to set the portrait in an anonymous corner of the composer’s London home, a contrast to the dramatised pose of the sitter.

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Events of 2002back to top

Current affairs

2002 was an eventful year for the Royal Family, highlighted by the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations, but marred by the death of Princess Margaret, followed just three months later by the death of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother at the age of 101 (making her the longest lived royal in British History).

Art and science

The relationship between two of the greatest modern masters is celebrated in Tate Modern's blockbuster exhibition Matisse Picasso. By exhibiting their works side-by-side, the show revealed the relationship between the two artists from 1906-54.
The 'Party at the Palace' concert in celebration of the Queen's Jubilee brings together stars from the last 50 years of Pop: Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Brian Wilson, Queen, Ozzy Osbourne and Elton John.


Terrorist bombing attacks on the Island of Bali in Indonesia leave 202 people dead, including 25 Britons. The three attacks took place in a bar, outside a nightclub and outside the United States consulate, and were aimed at foreign tourists, although many locals were also killed or injured. The Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah were found guilty of perpetrating the attacks.

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