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The Artist's Process

Past display archive
4 December 2007 - 1 June 2008

Room 37 and 37a


This display tells the stories behind the production of some of the National Portrait Gallery's recent portraits. With the aid of sketchbooks and photographs, it provides an insight into the different working practices of the artists who created them, from Andrew Tift's meticulous scale drawings for his portrait of Neil and Glenys Kinnock, to Tom Phillips's large-scale and semi-abstract sketches of the writer Dame Iris Murdoch.

As part of their commissions to make portraits for the National Portrait Gallery, the artists Stuart Pearson Wright, Andrew Tift and Tomas Watson kept diaries recording their process. These detail the progression of the works and reveal common dilemmas and anxieties. Every portrait in this display involved sittings from life. Some were painted in their subjects' homes, where the surroundings proved inspiring. A crucial element in the making of these portraits was the relationship that developed between the artist and sitter, which Stuart Pearson Wright describes as the 'very particular intimacy of a set of portrait sittings.'


Pioneer Podcasts

Listen to a series of podcasts exploring the lives of pioneering women, past and present.

Explore the podcasts

Untitled, c.1973 (Alex Chilton) by William Eggleston © Eggleston Artistic Trust

Eggleston Playlist

William Eggleston was closely associated with the alternative music scene in Memphis. Revisit our 2016 exhibition and listen to a special playlist.

Listen to the playlist

Archive interviews

Links to audio and transcripts of interviews with artists, sitters and historic recordings.

Watch, listen and read