Tom Shakespeare (‘Tom Shakespeare: Intellect, with Wheels’) by Lucy Jones

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    Tom Shakespeare ('Tom Shakespeare: Intellect, with Wheels'),    by Lucy Jones,    2017,    NPG 7116,    © Lucy Jones, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery, London and New York
Social scientist, broadcaster and disability-rights campaigner Tom Shakespeare, painted by his friend Lucy Jones.
Tom Shakespeare ('Tom Shakespeare: Intellect, with Wheels')
by Lucy Jones
oil on canvas, 2017
59 in. x 39 3/8 in. (1500 mm x 1000 mm) overall
NPG 7116
© Lucy Jones, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery, London and New York
On display in Room 33 on Floor 0 at the National Portrait Gallery

Tom Shakespeare (born 1966) is a social scientist, broadcaster and disability-rights campaigner. He talks and researches mainly about disability, but also about ethical issues. As well as his academic and broadcasting work he has also performed as a comedian.

Lucy Jones (born 1955) is a contemporary British artist. Her work addresses ideas of femininity, fragility, ageing and disability. It is characterised by her use of vibrant colours and expressive brushstrokes, which she uses to help show how she feels about a person, a place, or herself.

Jones and Shakespeare became friends in 2014 – there is a close bond between the artist and Sitter The person in a portrait. in this portrait.

Analysing the portrait

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    Tom Shakespeare ('Tom Shakespeare: Intellect, with Wheels'),    by Lucy Jones,    2017,    NPG 7116,    © Lucy Jones, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery, London and New York
Tom Shakespeare ('Tom Shakespeare: Intellect, with Wheels'), by Lucy Jones, 2017

Look carefully at the portrait. Take your time – look at it for at least a whole minute. What can you see?

    • Lucy Jones is celebrating her friend in the portrait. The mood of the portrait is happy and positive.
    • We immediately notice Tom Shakespeare’s smile, and his face seems animated and ‘lit up’.
    • His eyes are lively and engaging. Lucy Jones has talked about eyes being important in her portraits.
    • Shakespeare is dressed casually in bright clothes and what look like trainers, adding to the overall relaxed nature of the portrait.
    • Jones and Shakespeare are friends and there is a close bond between the artist and Sitter The person in a portrait. . She has described him as one of her heroes. Perhaps this has impacted on how Shakespeare is shown in the portrait.
    • Shakespeare is shown sitting in his wheelchair. He is leaning to the side in a relaxed way.
    • One of his feet is slightly raised which gives the portrait a sense of movement.
    • He looks at ease, as if he is happy to be painted. 
    • The portrait doesn’t focus on Shakespeare’s disability, but also doesn’t hide it. 
    • She has used Oil paint A type of paint where the pigment (colour) is mixed with plant oil. on canvas to paint this portrait. She has applied the paint using quick Gestural Painting or drawing using sweeping, energetic movements. brushstrokes, so the surface of the painting looks textured rather than smooth.
    • She has used bigger, more gestural brushstrokes for the background and Shakespeare’s clothing and smaller brushstrokes to paint the details of his face.
    • If you look closely you will see that she has used the smaller brushstrokes to shape the forms of Shakespeare’s face, helping to make it look solid and three-dimensional.
    • The painting is full of vibrant colour. This is typical of Lucy Jones’s work.
    • Shakespeare is wearing a bright pink jumper with a green shirt underneath and purple socks. These bright colours are matched by the brightness of the wall and floor.
    • Jones has used the same colour for different elements within the painting. The colour of Shakespeare’s jumper is repeated in his lips, and she has used the same colour for his eyes as she has used for the floor. This draws our eyes around the painting and highlights the features of his face.
    • Jones has used violet paint alongside creamy yellows on his face, to suggest the shadows of his chin and neck. This use of contrasting, or Complementary colours A colour that gives the greatest contrast when combined with a particular colour, for example blue and orange. , colours adds vibrancy to the painting.
    • She has painted the turquoise blue colour of the wall over a darker underpaint. The pink floor looks as if it has been painted over a layer of blue paint. This layering of colour, with layers underneath showing through, adds to the rich texture of the surface.
    • Shakespeare has said that Lucy Jones ‘creates rhythms and vibrations of colour, like Henri Matisse A French artist active in the early 1900s, known for his stylish use of colour and innovative approach to form.  or Andre Derain A French artist and leading figure of the avant-garde movement, active in the early 1900s. ’. She may have chosen the bright colours and the way she has painted them to help express how she feels about Shakespeare.
    • Lucy Jones has placed Tom Shakespeare in the middle of the painting and he dominates the space. His seated figure creates a diagonal across the painting, drawing our eyes up to his face.
    • The rest of the composition is divided into simple shapes: the rectangular shape of the wall, the triangle of floor and the circular wheel of his wheelchair.
    • The circular shape of the wheel contrasts with the shape of Shakespeare’s body and the triangle of floor. (But by cropping the wheelchair within the composition, she perhaps makes the point that it isn’t an essential part of who he is.)
    • She has used a dark outline to define and emphasise some of the shapes within the composition. This is a technique that Henri Matisse A French artist active in the early 1900s, known for his stylish use of colour and innovative approach to form.  often used in his paintings to emphasise the shapes within his paintings.
We need to remove the barriers so that more people have a chance of going to art school, of being nurtured, of flourishing and expressing themselves in the mainstream.
Tom Shakespeare, 2015

Who is Tom Shakespeare? 

  • Tom Shakespeare has worked for a number of prestigious institutions, including the Universities of Leeds and Newcastle, the World Health Organisation in Geneva and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
  • He has led important research into disability, spinal cord injury, disability-related issues and the ethics of genetics.
  • He has worked on disability and development research projects in countries all over the world including Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 
  • He is a leading activist and campaigner for disability rights.
  • Shakespeare was born with achondroplasia, a condition which causes dwarfism. He uses a wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury in 2008.

Who is Lucy Jones?

  • Lucy Jones grew up in London and studied at the Royal College of Art where she was awarded the prestigious Rome Scholarship, in 1982.   
  • Jones was born with cerebral palsy. She does not want to be defined as a ‘disabled artist’, but she does explore disability through her work. She has said ‘every single brush stroke I have to fight for’.
  • She is particularly well known for her vibrant use of colour, which she uses in creating wild landscapes and honest, sometimes challenging, portraits and self-portraits. She has described her work as ‘ Awkward Difficult or challenging because of its shape or design.  beauty’.
  • Jones has always painted the props and supports in her life, such as her glasses, walking sticks and ‘wheelie’ (her wheelchair) in her self-portraits. Her work examines their role in shaping her personal sense of self as well as how others see her.
  • Jones’s work has been bought and collected by internationally renowned organisations, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Why is this portrait significant?

  • There are various versions of this portrait, but this one is on the largest scale and shows Tom Shakespeare in his wheelchair, while the other versions don’t.
  • The portrait is almost life-size.
  • It’s an interesting combination of artist and Sitter The person in a portrait. as they are friends.

Questions

  1. What do you think the colours and the way she has painted them say about how Lucy Jones feels about Tom Shakespeare?
  1. Why do you think Jones gave the portrait the title ‘Intellect, with Wheels’?
  1. Do you like this portrait? Why?