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My Favourite Portrait by Christopher Bailey

Christopher Bailey


Taken from the Gallery Supporters’ Magazine, Face to Face
Issue 29, [Summer 2009]
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Lowry is one of my favourite artists. Born in Stretford, in Manchester, he was a simple and yet complex man – rarely understood or appreciated and awash with the contradictions that came through so strongly in his paintings. During his lifetime his work never really received the recognition it deserved, but it is very much revered today. He was famous for painting sombre industrial northern towns like Salford, Rochdale and Blackpool, depicting men and women as identical long, lean silhouettes, dubbed ‘matchstick men’, with oversized, unstructured coats and rarely without hats, reflecting the normality of the working-class masses going about their lives in the days of thriving British industries such as coal and cotton, with smoke billowing on the horizon over a hazy winter sky.

As a Northerner myself I was always familiar with L.S. Lowry and indeed inspired by his work. It is so poetic. I love the sombreness and the way he was able to capture the emotion and feelings in the air. His paintings are extraordinarily nostalgic and have such rich texture, with his characteristic faded hues – Lowry’s palette used just a few colours, which made it so distinctive. Where it would limit other artists, Lowry was able to use that to emphasise the sweetness hidden in these melancholic towns.

I chose his self-portrait The Man With Red Eyes because it says a lot about Lowry, what Lowry wanted us to know and perhaps more than you could ever read about him or extract from his stunning landscapes. I love the austerity and sombre emotion combined with that unmistakably Northern spirit. In many ways the portrait celebrates the man himself, although this would never have been his intention. It captures his elegant style and the romantic way in which he painted, contrasting with the rare moment of vulnerability and sadness in his expression that we later discover was the overwhelming pain of grief burning behind his eyelids. It was painted in the year his mother was to pass away.

Christopher Bailey
Creative Director of Burberry

As Creative Director of Burberry, Christopher Bailey is responsible for the design of all Burberry collections and product lines including Burberry Prorsum, Burberry London, Thomas Burberry and all Burberry licensed products globally. He is also responsible for the company’s overall image including all advertising, corporate art direction and store design and visuals.

He joined Burberry in May 2001 having been Senior Designer of Womenswear at Gucci in Milan and Womenswear Designer at Donna Karan and has been the recipient of numerous awards, most recently for Menswear Designer of the Year 2008, British Fashion Awards (UK).

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