A painted portrait of Nobel Prize winning writer V.S. Naipaul has been commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery
and unveiled there today.
The artist Paul Emsley won the BP Portrait Award, the National Portrait Gallery's annual painting competition and exhibition in 2007. It was on the strength of Emsley's portrait of fellow artist Michael Simpson that the Gallery was able to persuade the Nobel Prize-winning writer to have his portrait painted for the Collection.
Late in 2008, the artist visited the writer's Wiltshire home. Naipaul wished to be depicted in his garden, and Emsley photographed him sitting on his folding stool. The attention to the pose of the subject is complemented by the artist's atmospheric treatment of the garden, which appears to disappear into the wintry darkness, an effect achieved through the application of layers of translucent glazes and the use of just two colours.
A Nobel Prize-winning writer, Naipaul was born in Trinidad, coming to England in 1960 to study at Oxford University. His first novel The Mystic Masseur (1957) was followed by A House for Mr Biswas (1961). Naipaul's literary themes include exile and displacement; he won the Booker Prize with In a Free State in 1971. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001.
Glasgow-born artist Paul Emsley (b.1947) lives and works in Bradford on Avon, near Bath. He grew up in South Africa before moving to England in 1996. Paul has exhibited widely and won several prizes. His BP Portrait Award winning portrait of 2007 was a large close-up of the head of 67-year-old artist Michael Simpson.
Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: "This is a beautiful and mysterious portrait of a great writer, painted by BP winner Paul Emsley. I am very pleased that V.S. Naipaul enters the Collection as a new portrait."
Jayde Card, Acting Director UK Arts & Culture, says: "Paul Emsley's hauntingly beautiful portrait of V.S. Naipaul is an outstanding demonstration of how the BP Portrait Award not only encourages the continuing development of portraiture but also introduces important new artists to the Gallery's permanent Collection."
This portrait joins other works in the National Portrait Gallery's Collection of commissions by BP Portrait Award winning artists including Camila Batmanghelidjh by Dean Marsh (BP Portrait Award winner 2005); J K Rowling by Stuart Pearson Wright (winner 2001); Sir Peter Mansfield by Stephen Shankland (winner 2004); Dame Cicely Saunders by Catherine Goodman (winner 2002); Fiona Shaw by Victoria Russell (winner 2000); Sir Paul Smith by James Lloyd (winner 1997), and Dame Helen Mirren by Ishbel Myerscough (winner 1995).
Sir V.S. Naipaul by Paul Emsley is on display at the National Portrait Gallery's Contemporary Collections in the Lerner Galleries (Room 41). Admission free