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Alfred Brendel

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Alfred Brendel

by Tony Bevan
acrylic on canvas, 2005
29 3/4 in. x 26 3/8 in. (756 mm x 670 mm)
Commissioned, 2005
Primary Collection
NPG 6720

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Tony Bevan (1951-), Painter. Artist of 4 portraits, Sitter in 3 portraits.

This portraitback to top

From the beginning of the commissioning consultation process it was clear that Alfred Brendel was not going to be satisfied with a conventional portrait and indeed he was reticent about sitting at all. However, he was taken with the raw strength and authenticity of Bevan's vision. Although many of Bevan's paintings are based on direct observation, both of himself, his family and friends, this is the first time that the artist has ventured into the realm of the portrait commission. Uncertain about whether he would produce something that pleased both the sitter and himself this was a challenge pushing the boundaries of his normal concerns with painting the head. Pictorial and stylistic precursors for the work can be cited such as the sharp diagonal line of pigment cutting across the bottom of the canvas which is a reference to Goya's A Drowning Dog (1820-23) also present in Bevan's earlier Horizon series. The finished portrait is a result of an intense period of work over a year during which he produced a series of preparatory sketches from life followed by drawings and paintings based on the sketches.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Portraits, p. 141
  • Howgate, Sarah; Nairne, Sandy, A Guide to Contemporary Portraits, 2009, p. 15 Read entry

    Sir Alfred Brendel (b. 1931) is one of the world’s greatest pianists and the first to record the entire works of Beethoven written for solo piano. From the beginning of the commissioning process it was clear that Brendel was not going to be satisfied with a conventional portrait. However, he was taken with the raw strength and authenticity of Tony Bevan’s vision. The sharp diagonal that cuts across the canvas is a reference to Goya’s A Drowning Dog (1820-23) but is also present in Bevan’s earlier Horizon series. The finished portrait is the result of an intense period of work over a year during which Bevan produced preparatory sketches from life followed by drawings and paintings.

  • Nairne, Sandy; Howgate, Sarah, The Portrait Now, 2006, p. 67 Read entry

    Tony Bevan's portraits combine powerful physicality with psychological enquiry. Lines map the surface of the subject, resembling the flow patterns in Byzantine portraits, as well as penetrating deeper. The cropping is characteristically severe, intensifying the presence of the subject. In Bevan's portrait of the famous pianist Brendel the bold area of black may suggest a grand piano, but it is principally a framing device that concentrates attention on the sitter. Alfred Brendel is one of the world's greatest musicians, renowned for his interpretations of the works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Liszt.

  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 269 Read entry

    Alfred Brendel is one of the world’s great pianists. Based in London, he was born in northern Moravia, now part of the Czech Republic, and his early years were spent in Croatia and Austria. Largely self-taught, Brendel’s musical training consisted of childhood piano lessons. A precocious talent, he made his first professional recording aged twenty-one and his career spans over six decades. In the 1960s he became the first artist to record Beethoven’s complete works for solo piano, and is a renowned interpreter of Mozart, Schubert, Brahms and Liszt.

    Brendel is also an admired poet and essayist and, as a young man, briefly contemplated a career as a painter, exhibiting watercolours in Graz, Austria.

    The British painter Tony Bevan (b.1951) was commissioned to paint Brendel after the pianist expressed admiration for the artist’s work. Bevan is one of Britain’s leading figurative painters, whose approach is rooted in the European expressionist tradition. Although much of Bevan’s work is based around the self-portrait, he is not a conventional portrait artist and had never previously undertaken a commission. This powerful portrait emerged from a large group of paintings and sketches of his sitter, which Bevan made over twelve months following a single sitting.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 2005back to top

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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