© David Cobley / National Portrait Gallery, London
by David Cobley
oil on canvas, 2004
30 in. x 36 in. (762 mm x 914 mm)
Sitterback to top
- Sir Kenneth Arthur ('Ken') Dodd (1927-2018), Entertainer, comedian, singer and actor. Sitter in 4 portraits.
This portraitback to top
The portrait was worked up from preparatory drawings and oil sketches made on the basis of several meetings with the subject. Cobley, who describes his picture as 'an affectionate tribute', shows Dodd backstage. Though out of costume and make up, he suggests the experience of viewing him on stage, through the performative gesture reflected in the mirror both in front and behind him. Cobley emphasises Dodd's features; known for his gigantic smile and trademark teeth, he was once described as capable of conveying 'every expression available to the human face'. The portrait however reveals the vulnerability of the weary-looking comic. The complex relationship between on and off stage persona is also suggested by the pink tickling stick in the bottom right corner of the painting and the flash of hot pink shirt visible in the mirror though not actually seen in the dressing room. The portrait was shortlisted for the 2004 Holburne Portrait Prize.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Nairne, Sandy; Howgate, Sarah, The Portrait Now, 2006, p. 121 Read entry
Cobley's portrait captures the underlying eccentricity of comedian and entertainer, Ken Dodd. Known for his manic hairstyle and protruding teeth, Dodd developed a loyal following over the years with his off-beat comic routine. A self-professed fan of Dodd, Cobley describes Dodd's performance, 'Between the frenetic madness of tickling sticks, big bass drums and up to six jokes a minute, he sings a beautifully poignant lullaby to his wooden doll Dickie Mint.' The portrait is unusually composed, with Dodd's splayed hand as the focal point. The retreating succession of mirrored images creates a slightly unreal environment, with a strong emphasis on being off-stage.