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J.K. Rowling

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J.K. Rowling

by Stuart Pearson Wright
oil on board construction with coloured pencil on paper, 2005
38 1/4 in. x 28 3/8 in. (972 mm x 720 mm)
Commissioned as part of the First Prize, 2001 BP Portrait Award, 2005
Primary Collection
NPG 6723

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The artist began this portrait of J. K. Rowling in early 2004, when he paid several visits to the writer's Scottish home. Pearson Wright observed his subject, made sketches, sometimes while the author was at work, and took photographs for reference. Rowling is seated at a table, suggestive of the setting where the author famously wrote her first novel and where she occasionally still writes. The narrative alludes to Rowling's public and private self both as a writer, who has made an enormous impact on children's imaginations the world over, and as a mother - the eggs represent her own three children. Rowling's other worldly youthful presence in a surreal and disconcertingly distorted space calls to mind another children's classic, Alice in Wonderland. The painted sky beyond the window suggests a passage of time and illusionism that resonates with the Potter stories. In creating a three dimensional scene the artist has been influenced by eighteenth-century toy theatres and the boxes of Joseph Cornell.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • I-Spy National Portrait Gallery, 2010, p. 58
  • 100 Portraits, p. 144
  • 100 Writers, p. 158
  • Cooper, John, A Guide to the National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 59 Read entry

    Commissioned as part of the first prize in the annual BP Portrait Award, 2001. The artist places Rowling in a distorted space, evoking both the fantasy of her stories and the café where she began her writing career.

  • Howgate, Sarah; Nairne, Sandy, A Guide to Contemporary Portraits, 2009, p. 36 Read entry

    The portrait of J. K. Rowling (b. 1965) reflects on her roles as a writer and a mother (the eggs represent her three children). Pearson Wright’s use of compressed and distorted space suggests illusion, with echoes of Alice in Wonderland and the parallel world created in the author’s Harry Potter stories.

  • John Cooper, National Portrait Gallery Visitor's Guide, 2006, p. 88
  • Nairne, Sandy (introduction), 500 Portraits: BP Portrait Award, 2011, p. 26
  • Nairne, Sandy; Howgate, Sarah, The Portrait Now, 2006, p. 99 Read entry

    Stuart Pearson Wright has an uncanny ability to create meticulous reflections of the real world, while still imbuing his creations with an imaginative visual perspective. Wright's rendering of J. K. Rowling places the acclaimed British author of children's fiction as if posed in the Edinburgh café in which she first wrote the Harry Potter stories. Wright has produced a lasting portrayal of Rowling's features, as part of a trompe-lœil ensemble, creating a delightful depiction of this elusive and famously camera-shy writer.

  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 270 Read entry

    J. K. Rowling is the author of the successful Harry Potter series of books, now translated into sixty-one languages with over a quarter of a billion copies sold worldwide. Rowling said that the characters and plot of the first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997) came to her ‘fully formed’ during a train journey in 1990, and she completed the book with the assistance of an award from the Scottish Arts Council. Both Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000) and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003) in turn held the record for the fastest-selling book in history.

    Stuart Pearson Wright (b.1975) trained at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, and in 2001 won First Prize in the Gallery’s BP Portrait Award. This work was commissioned as a result, and Pearson Wright travelled to Edinburgh to meet the author, where he made several preliminary sketches. Cutting out sections of the painting and positioning them within a three-dimensional space concealed behind a false wall, Pearson Wright has created a trompe-l’oeil portrait that approaches the fictional worlds in Rowling’s own work and references the café where Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book.

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Current affairs

London suffers its worst bomb attack since the Second World War when four devices are detonated during rush hour on public transport. Three of the bombs went off on tube trains, and one on a bus killing 56 people and injuring 700. A Leeds-based terror cell of British born or raised Islamic extremists committed the attacks.
John Sentamu becomes the first black Archbishop of the Church of England.

Art and science

As part of the international Make Poverty History campaign, ten Live 8 concerts are held simultaneously around the world to coincide with the meeting of the G8 and persuade the world's richest countries to 'drop the debt' owed by the world's poorest countries, increase aid to the world's poorest people and negotiate fairer international trade rules.


1,836 die in America as a result of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding. The hurricane was the most costly in US history and one of the most deadly. It caused the levees of Lake Pontchartrain to break, which flooded 80% of New Orleans. About one million people evacuated the city while 25,000 stayed behind, many taking refuge in the city's Superdome.

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