Onora Sylvia O'Neill, Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Onora Sylvia O'Neill, Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve

by Victoria Russell
oil on canvas, 2004
48 1/4 in. x 36 1/4 in. (1226 mm x 922 mm)
Commissioned, 2004
Primary Collection
NPG 6681

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O'Neill took an active interest in the portrait making process and requested an artist who could paint women with an understated approach. Russell has successfully achieved this through a stripping away of the background and focus on the subject, who sits slightly below the artist's sightline. Sittings began in the laundry room at Newnham College, the only room that provided northern light, and were continued at the artist's East London studio.

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Current affairs

Armed robbers raid the Northern Bank in Belfast, stealing £26.5 million. Gunmen entered the homes of two bank officials, kidnapping their families and forcing them to let them into the bank, before loading cash into vans and driving away. Police and the British and Irish governments claimed that the Provisional IRA was responsible and several of the people arrested had PIRA, Real IRA and Sinn Féin connections.

Art and science

A fire at Charles Saatchi's art warehouse destroys some of the icons of Brit Art. Hell by Jake and Dinos Chapman, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With and The Hut by Tracey Emin and works by Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili, Sarah Lucas, Gavin Hume and Rachel Whiteread were among the casualties.

International

An earthquake in the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day causes a tsunami that kills nearly 230,000 people when it hit the coasts of Southeast Asia. The earthquake itself was the second most powerful ever recorded on a seismograph and waves from the tsunami - the most devastating in history - were up to 30 metres high.

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