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Olympians and paralympians


Past exhibition archive

From 14 June
Room 36

John Lessore's major portrait of six gold medal winning Paralympic sportsmen and women including, Tanni Grey Thompson and Simon Jackson, is the centrepiece of this display to celebrate the 2004 Olympics and Paralympics in Athens. An ambitious new portrait celebrating the achievements of British Paralympic athletes will go on display at the National Portrait Gallery on Tuesday 15 June 2004.

The portrait by John Lessore, himself paraplegic and a wheel-chair user, is set in the Stadium in Sydney, during the celebrations on the last night of the 2000 Paralympic Games. The six sportsmen and women represented are all multi-gold medallists who took part in the 2000 Games. They are depicted celebrating the success of the British team, among a fireworks display and aeroplane fly-past. The portrait, which has taken over two years to complete, will be at the centre of a display in the Gallery, to mark the 2004 Olympic and Paralympic games held in Athens this summer. The subjects of the portrait are:

Tanni Grey-Thompson OBE Athletics
Chris Holmes MBE Swimming
Caroline Innes MBE Athletics
Simon Jackson MBE Judo
Maggi McEleny MBE Swimming
Noel Thatcher MBE Athletics

Matthew Pinsent
by Eamonn McCabe
August 2001
NPG x125681



The Paralympic Games take place once every four years in the same city and year as the Olympic Games. They were founded by Dr Ludwig Guttmann, an eminent neurologist who had been using sport in the rehabilitation of Second World War veterans with spinal cord injuries at the Stoke Mandeville hospital in Aylesbury, England. Artist John Lessore was later in the same hospital where he met Dr. Guttmann and has dedicated this portrait to his memory. The first official Paralympic Games were held in Rome in 1960. Since that time the Games have developed beyond the initially exclusive participation of the spinally injured to incorporate many different types of disability. In Sydney, in 2000, four thousand athletes participated from 125 countries.

The painting is displayed alongside 11 photographs of fellow Olympians including Sir Steve Redgrave and Denise Lewis by Sheila Rock and eight newly acquired photographs by Anderson & Low and Michael Birt. Birt's subjects are the Paralympians, Tushar Patel and Lee Pearson and Olympic hopes Amir Khan, Marlon Devonish and Jo Fenn. New works by Anderson & Low show athletes training on location and feature the British Cycling Squad at the Manchester Velodrome, the yachtsman Ben Ainslie and the rower James Cracknell.